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We Can't See the Forest for the TreesThe Environmental Impact of Global Forest Certification Is Unknown



The role of private instruments such as certification systems in global environmental governance is continuously expanding. Therefore it is becoming increasingly important to know the environmental impact of these schemes. However, the sustainability impact of forest certification standards is largely unknown. Although much academic and policy-oriented research has been done, most analyses are desk studies – a paper reality has been created. Therefore we propose a global multi-disciplinary assessment to evaluate the environ mental, social and economic impacts of sustainability certification.
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The role of private instruments such as certification systems in global environmental governance is
continuously expanding. Therefore it is becoming increasingly important to know the environmental
impact of these schemes. However, the sustainability impact of
forest certification standards is largely unknown. Although much
academ ic and policy-oriented research has been done, most analyses
are desk studies – a paper reality has been created. Therefore we
propose a global multi-disciplinary assessment to evaluate the environ -
mental, social and economic impacts of sustainability certification.
We Can’t See the Forest for the Trees
The Environmental Impact of Global Forest Certification Is Unknown
GAIA 22/1(2013): 25–28 |
n the face of systemic transformations of the earth system and
mounting evidence that a number of planetary boundaries have
already been crossed (Rockström et al. 2009), devising effective
and equitable governance arrangements is a key challenge for
policy makers (Biermann et al. 2012). It is widely accepted that
problem solving has to be pursued at all levels of the political
system, from local to global, and beyond the confines of the state
and public policies.
In this context, sustainability certification is often advocated
as a panacea for various environmental externalities, and is be -
com ing an institutionalized governance approach to sustainable
development. Certification standards have been developed for a
wide variety of commodities, including timber, fisheries, coffee,
cocoa and palm oil, aiming to improve their environmental and/
or social performance. In this context, certification is regarded
as one of the primary drivers of private or hybrid (public-private)
market-based sustainability governance (Cashore 2002, Pattberg
Nevertheless, the effectiveness of certification standards is in -
creas ingly contested. While the case of marine fisheries certifica -
tion is a recent prominent example (Jacquet et al. 2010), we con-
tend, however, that the problem is much broader. In other areas,
such as forestry, the sustainability effectiveness of certification is
also debated. It seems that after the substantive increase in certi -
fication over the last two decades, the time has now come to criti -
cal ly reflect on the real and measurable added value of certifica-
tion for the sustainability transition.
Global forest certification standards, like those developed by
the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the
Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC), are among
the oldest sustainability standards worldwide. Despite this rela -
tively long experience with forest certification, no systematic glob-
al assessment of the sustainability impact of forest-related certi -
fication standards has been performed until today. The available
knowledge is scattered and incomplete, providing only limited
guidance for policy makers.
Building on earlier literature reviews (Auld et al. 2008, Kar-
mann and Smith 2009, Clark and Kozar 2011), we have examined
over 40 academic and 50 policy-oriented assessments of forest
certification standards.We have studied assessments from both
the natural and the social sciences. The article is based on this
review and the decade-long experience in the forest certification
debate of both authors.
We identify the following key challenges:
to substantially improve the current knowledge base on
the effectiveness of (forest) certification standards requires
going beyond desk-based assessments;
to fully comprehend the governance effects of (forest)
certifica tion standards, it is necessary to analyze the
broader environmental, economic and social impacts
beyond standard-uptake (the number of producers
becoming certified) and compliance, and >
Ingrid J.Visseren-Hamakers,
Philipp Pattberg
Contact: Dr.Ingrid J. Visseren-Hamakers | Wageningen University &
Research Centre(WUR)| Forest and Nature Conservation Policy Group(FNP)|
Droevendaalsesteeg 3, Room B.320 | P. O. Box 47 | 6700 AA Wageningen |
The Netherlands | Tel.: +31 317 486366 | E-Mail:
Dr.Philipp Pattberg | VU University Amsterdam | Institute for
Environmental Studies (IVM)| Amsterdam | The Netherlands |
©2013 I.J. Visseren-Hamakers, P. Pattberg; licensee oekom verlag.
This is an article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
(, which permits unrestricted use,distribution,
and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
We Can’t See the Forest for the Trees. The Environmental Impact of Global Forest Certification Is Unknown
GAIA 22/1(2013): 25– 28 |Keywords: environmental impact, FSC, global forest governance, non-state policies, PEFC
025_028_Visseren 07.03.13 15:29 Seite 25 |GAIA 22/1(2013): 2528
26 Ingrid J.Visseren-Hamakers, Philipp PattbergFORUM
to place (forest) certification standards in the broader con-
text of current transformations of global environmental gov-
ernance from state-based to private and hybrid forms of gov-
ernance (Biermann and Pattberg 2008), more attention
should be directed towards the political nature of existing as-
sessments and the hidden agendas of the actors involved.
In the following, these challenges are discussed in more detail.
Consequent ly, we argue that a global unified assessment of sus-
tainability certification standards is urgently needed.
The Paper Reality of Forest Certification
Despite the relatively large number of evaluations that have been
published on the environmental effectiveness of forest certifica -
tion, themost striking observation is the fact that the large major -
ity of studies are desk-studies. We only found a few recent scien -
tific field studies that measure the effectiveness of forest certi -
fica tion on the ground or use datasets of primary data for their
evaluation (Johansson and Lidestav 2011, Elbakidze et al. 2011,
Sverdrup-Thygeson et al. 2008).
All other studies reviewed for this forum incorporate only in-
direct evidence from the field. A popular research method in this
context is studying the published audit reports, which include so-
called Corrective Action Requests, the issues on which the forest
manager has to improve in order to become or remain certified.
As a consequence, however, this method directs attention to-
wards the FSC, since it publishes more information on individ-
ual audits than its direct competitor, the PEFC (Hirschberger 2005).
Another handful of publications is predominantly based on inter -
views and/or questionnaires among forest managers and other
experts, and incorporates only information on perceived rath er
than actual on-the-ground impacts (e.g., Cubbage et al. 2010, Go -
mez-Zamalloa et al. 2011, Savcor Indufor Oy 2005).
While a number of studies (Cubbage et al. 2010, Gomez-Za-
malloa et al. 2011, Schlyter et al. 2009) compare different certifi -
cation schemes, little is known about the differences among the
standards on the ground. Moreover, exact sciences andsocial sci -
ences hardly ever collaborate in forest certification evaluations,
al though forest certification incorporates economic, social and
ecological issues, necessitating a multi-disciplinary approach.
While a majority of studies cautiously conclude that certifica -
tion has some positive impacts (Sverdrup-Thygeson et al. 2008,
Cubbage 2010, Gulbrandsen 2005, Gullison 2003, Newsom and
Hewitt 2005, Newsom et al. 2006, Nussbaum and Simula 2004,
Rametsteiner and Simula 2003, Van Kuijk et al. 2009, WWF 2005),
most researchers agree that additional research is needed, and
that information on the effectiveness of certification standards on
the ground is lacking (Auld et al. 2008, Ozinga 2004, Peña-Claros
et al. 2009). Clark and Kozar (2011), authors of a meta-analysis on
the impact of forest certification on sustainable forest manage-
ment practices, conclude: “Despite their existence for more than
a decade, little is known about how well forest certification sys-
tems achieve their SFM [sustainable forest management] goals.”
Effects Beyond Compliance
Besides a few exceptions (e.g., Marx and Cuypers 2010), studies
that have looked at the effectiveness of certification standards in
and beyond forestry focus on questions of standard-uptake, rule-
implementation, compliance, and the institutional complemen-
tarities between international and domestic settings of certifica -
tion (e.g., Mattli and Büthe 2003). Analyses focusing on the rate
of standard-uptake and rule-compliance run the risk of conclud-
ing that certification standards as examples of transnational rules
and norms are epiphenomena and can largely be neglected in ac -
counts of world politics.
Following the international regime literature on effectiveness
and compliance of intergovernmental treaties, asking questions
about rule-implementation and compliance seems to be a justi -
©Ingrid J. Visseren-Hamakers
Forest management can be certified according to environmental, social
and economic criteria. The impact of forest certification on a sustainable
development is however unknown. The picture shows aforest in Vietnam.
025_028_Visseren 07.03.13 15:29 Seite 26
GAIA 22/1(2013): 25–28 |
fied and straightforward approach (Miles et al. 2002). However,
this strategy has a number of weaknesses. First, the focus on the
direct effects of certification standards potentially overlooks sub-
stantial effects that are normative, cognitive, structural as well as
unintended. As a result of this blind spot, scholars may systemat -
ically underestimate the importance of certification standards in
world politics. And second, as a consequence of this narrow view,
the question of variation in effectiveness of (forest) certification
standards has largely been confined to the question of firm-lev-
el choices when accounting for different standard-uptakes and
growth rates, while the answer may lay elsewhere (Kollman and
Prakash 2001), for example in national forest-related policy.
To overcome this limitation of previous assessments, research
efforts should prioritize the following aspects:
measuring the effectiveness of certification standards at local
(i.e., ForestManagementUnit), landscapeand national levels;
including both direct (e. g., on-the-ground) and indirect
(e. g., normative) effects of certification, as well as analyzing
the unintended consequences with regard to economic,
social and environmental indicators (Pattberg 2012);
comparing the effectiveness of different standards within
and across geographical regions;
the realization that the effectiveness of certification cannot
be assessed without taking national and sub-national
legisla tion into account, and
the question of how to separate the influences of
certification standards from other factors, such as macro-
economic developments or governmental policy.
The Politicized Nature of Assessments
During the last two decades, organizations involved in the for -
estry debate have developed into two broad coalitions, either sup -
port ing the FSC or the rival PEFC scheme. While most environ-
mental andsocial non-governmental organizations(NGOs) as well
as several industry actors favor FSC, forest owners and the ma-
jority of the industry – often backed-up by national governments
– prefer the PEFC. Research on rival certification schemes in Eu -
rope shows that FSC is dominant in countries with public forest
ownership, while PEFC leads in countries with private forest own-
ership (Gomez-Zamalloa et al. 2011). Over the years, the support -
ers of the rival schemes have been involved in a paralyzing “trench
war”, in which they compete for dominance of “their” scheme
(Visseren-Hamakers and Glasbergen 2007).
It is important to realize that often these actors use sustainab -
il ity evaluations to support their own arguments. A significant
part of the evaluation literature therefore cannot be seen as objec -
tive. These policy-oriented assessments include evaluations by
NGOs, industry associations, research institutes, consultancies,
governments and, finally, by the standard organizations them -
selv es. While NGO assessments predominantly focus on short-
comings and failures of certification in specific regions (Liima-
tainen and Harkki 2001) or compare different certification stan-
dards (Anonymous 2009, Hirschberger 2005, Ozinga 2004), in-
dustry assessments aim to show the commonalities among the
schemes (Oliver 2004). The overviews provided by the certifica-
tion schemes themselves advocate the sustainability of their own
standard (SFI 2010, Karmann and Smith 2009).
Of particular interest are governmental assessments of the dif-
ferent standards that inform governmental procurement policies
(TPAC 2010, CPET 2010). Many governments have set targets for
buying sustainably produced timber, and therefore require an
objective “yardstick” to decide which schemes comply with the
government’s definition of sustainable forest management. In
the UK and in the Netherlands, for example, government adviso -
ry bodies decided in 2010 that both the FSC and PEFC meet their
sustainability requirements, with the Netherlands currently ex-
cluding the PEFC-endorsed Malaysian Timber Certi fication Coun -
cil (MTCC). With these government assessments, market-based
governance instruments receive formal governmental recogni-
tion, thereby further politicizing certification.
Overall, we have to conclude that with the overwhelming num-
ber of desk-studies, a paper reality has been created in which the
effectiveness of forest certification seems well-known. Some of
the desk studies are, at the most, based on indirect evidence from
the field. These studies, however, do not systematically assess the
impact of certification on the ground, such as the long-term im-
pacts on biodiversity. As Gomez-Zamalloa and colleagues (2011)
contend with a view towards the European forest sector: “There
is no recent, scientific and holistic analysis of the impacts of for-
est certification”, a conclusion that can be generalized to the glob-
al level. We therefore must agree with those researchers (Van Kuijk
et al. 2009) who have concluded that “we simply don’t know”
whether forest certification is sustainable.
An increasing number of actors is depending on sustainabili -
ty certification, including governments, international organiza-
tions, corporations, civil society, and market-based instruments
like certification are currently often preferred over govern mental
policy. Therefore it is of fundamental importance to remedy the
existing shortcomings in our knowledge base on the sustainabil -
ity of certification. Our analysis of forest certification also raises
questions about the knowledge base of the sustainability of cer-
tification schemes for other products. We contend that the prob-
lem of a paper reality extends beyond forest certification.
It is high time for a globally representative assessment of the
impacts of forest certification standards. This assessment should
include: the environmental, social and economic effectiveness
and unintended effects; contributions from the natural and so-
cial sciences; and countries in the South and North. We propose
that such an analysis compares, as a minimum requirement, the
effects of FSC, PEFC, and non-certified forests in each country.
This research is necessary to inform the debates on the effective -
ness of forest certification standards and government procure- >
025_028_Visseren 07.03.13 15:29 Seite 27 |GAIA 22/1(2013): 2528
28 Ingrid J.Visseren-Hamakers, Philipp PattbergFORUM
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risks, opportunities, and consequences of the current institution-
alization of sustainability certification as the main alternative to
state-based problem solving.
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Submitted June 29, 2012; revised version
accepted September 16, 2012.
Philipp Pattberg
Born 1975 in Cologne, Germany.Studies in political science
and international relations, PhD in 2006. Since 2011
associate professor of transnational environmental policy
and governance at the Institute for Environmental Studies
(IVM), VU University Amsterdam. Research leader
at the Amsterdam Global Change Institute (AGCI).Research areas:
global environmental governance, climate change and policy.
Ingrid J. Visseren-Hamakers
Born 1970 in Brummen, The Netherlands. Studies in
business administration and social environmental sciences,
PhD in 2009. Since 2009 assistant professor at the Forest
and Nature Conservation Policy Group(FNP), Wageningen
University & Research Centre(WUR). Research areas:
interna tional forest, nature and biodiversity governance, partnerships,
effective ness of and interactions between public and private policy.
025_028_Visseren 07.03.13 15:29 Seite 28
... Until recently, this was simply unknown. For example, Visseren-Hamakers and Pattberg (2013) and Van der Ven and Cashore (2018) stated a few years back that they could not conclude on FSC's impact due to a lack of (rigorous) field studies. ...
Full-text available
Many forest-related problems are considered relevant today. One might think of deforestation, illegal logging and biodiversity loss. Yet, many governance initiatives have been initiated to work on their solutions. This Element takes stock of these issues and initiatives by analysing different forest governance modes, shifts and norms, and by studying five cases (forest sector governance, forest legality, forest certification, forest conservation, participatory forest management). Special focus is on performance: are the many forest governance initiatives able to change established practices of forest decline (Chloris worldview) or are they doomed to fail (Hydra worldview)? The answer will be both, depending on geographies and local conditions. The analyses are guided by discursive institutionalism and philosophical pragmatism. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
... In the two decades since its creation, it is not known whether FSC forest certification has actually achieved its objectives, such as reducing the long-term impact of forest activities on biodiversity (Visseren-Hamakers and Pattberg, 2013). FSC was created to end deforestation, degradation and illegal trade of tropical forest timber, but only a small part of the world certified forests is located in these regions (Rotherham, 2011). ...
Certification programs may include market access benefits for those business that have certified voluntarily, but there are also other consequences, such as the ban on the use of certain chemical pesticides imposed by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that can negatively affect integrated pest management. The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) was created in response to FSC standards and includes national certification schemes such as the Responsible Wood (RW), previously known as the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS). The objective of this study was to evaluate the impacts of FSC and RW/PEFC certification on practices of integrated pest management from the perspective of Australian forest growers. Questionnaires were emailed to all organizations in Australia with forest plantations certified by FSC and/or RW/PEFC. The questionnaire addressed the importance of forest pest groups, pest control techniques, chemical pesticides (insecticides and herbicides) in derogation; the advantages and disadvantages of integrated pest management related to the certification; and satisfaction with certification in relation to pest management. The two insecticides in derogation were considered unnecessary by most of Australian growers. FSC promoted more changes in integrated pest management than RW. Half the FSC-certified companies stated that they had greater costs associated with integrated pest management to adequately meet certification. RW-certified growers were more satisfied than FSC-certified ones, but both groups stated that they would maintain certification in a scenario without further insecticide derogation. The main changes in pest management for FSC-certified companies were with preventive techniques that reduce the use and dependence on insecticides. The environmental and social side of FSC prevailed in these changes. Raising certification rigor can increase costs, making certification impracticable, forcing companies to adopt less restrictive schemes or simply not certify.
... This volume adds value to state-of-the-art research on environmental or resource-related conflict, migration and governance in several respects. Extensive literature exists on the emergence of conflicts and determinants of conflict dynamics within and between countries (for example, Cederman et al, 2013;van Evera, 2013;Tarrow, 2015). The literature often also touches on the topics of migration and refugees without systematically examining the links between conflict dynamics of two or more not necessarily bordering countries created by flows of migration. ...
... Few studies analyze the direct sustainability impact of SFM certification programs using primary data or field studies, and even fewer studies actually compare SFM programs' results on the ground (Visseren-Hamakers & Pattberg, 2013). However, limited studies suggest that forest certification has helped to alter environmental, social and economic sustainability of forest management practices, and forest managers believe that certification benefits outweigh its disadvantages (Moore et al., 2012). ...
Forestlands have been identified as a valuable resource to mitigate climate change due to the biome’s capacity to both sequester greenhouse gases and substitute for fossil fuels. Woody biomass has been proposed as a substitutable input for coalgenerated electricity as economies attempt to transition to renewable power while addressing economic development goals. However, increasing the intensity of forest management for energy production has the potential to result in significant ecological, economic and social consequences at local, regional and global scales. In this context, my dissertation explores the capacity of existing policy frameworks to stimulate and support sustainable power production from forest biomaterials. In Chapter Two, I explore the interactions between shifting goals, actors and institutions in influencing incentives that shape today’s policy mix for woody biopower production in Wisconsin. The study’s results reveal that the state’s shifting focus away from using renewable energy as a means to pursue climate change mitigation and energy security goals combined with an absence of supportive coalitions has resulted in the dismantling of support for the woody biopower policy framework. In Chapter Three, I use data from a household survey of Tomahawk, Wisconsin residents to evaluate support for woody biomass production for power generation. Results show that respondents in biomass producing communities are more supportive of biomass sources such as forestry residues and forestry thinnings than dedicated harvesting operations. In addition, the results indicate that using an xiii ecosystem services approach can help explain differences in support between these respondents and provide insights into socially acceptable forms of biomass harvesting operations. Chapter Four evaluates the use of sustainable forest management certification programs as a policy instrument to source sustainable woody biomass. The study evaluated the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification programs using bioenergy sustainability criteria found in the academic literature. The analysis shows a deficiency in these programs to address key criteria pertaining to climate change mitigation and would be improved by coupling sustainable forest management programs with bioenergy sustainability schemes such as designed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials.
Europe has been implementing eco-labelling on forest products for the last two decades as a market-oriented tool to combat forest degradation and manage forest resources sustainably. Numerous studies have investigated the impacts of eco-labelling from different perspectives and geographic locations. Nevertheless, holistic reviews to disentangle the impacts of eco-labelling on forest sustainability are lacking. This study proposes a conceptual framework to collate and qualitatively analyse the existing literature regarding forest eco-labels for disclosing its effects on social, ecological, and economic sustainability. With regard to social sustainability, forest eco-labelling has established itself as a credibility icon that enhanced end-consumption patterns and successfully institutionalised the discourse over customary rights, despite insufficient procedural justice for indigenous communities and workers. In the economic dimension, forest eco-labelling enhanced market competitiveness; however, increasing costs continue to be a huge setback for producers. The ecological dimension demonstrated restored landscapes as a result of disturbance reductions. Nonetheless, the insufficient preservation of trees and areas with high conservation values during felling have undermined forest integrity and biodiversity protection. More rigorous marketing strategies and campaigns might be needed to address the profitability issue. Also, quantitative measures for on-the-ground performance should be enacted to leverage the unique strengths of forest eco-labelling in institutionalising cross-sector cooperation and normalising environmental discourses in forestry.
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In the face of accelerating forest degradation and deforestation, forest certification emerged in the early 1990s as a voluntary and market-based mechanism to promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world’s forests. A key goal of forest certification is to reduce forest degradation and deforestation while enhancing forest enterprises’ economic viability. However, whether forest certification contributes to meeting such goals is unclear. We conducted a systematic literature review on such impacts, reviewing empirical studies published between 1993 and 2021 regarding the impact of forest certification on forest degradation, deforestation, and economic viability. Drawing on 98 empirical studies, we analyzed these impacts and provide an overview of the studies’ findings in terms of geographical distribution, indicators considered, and the certification schemes assessed. We found that the impact of forest certification on deforestation has been specifically understudied (n = 11) compared to forest degradation (n = 42) and economic viability (n = 45). On deforestation, studies have focused on Africa (45%) and South America (36%); on forest degradation, studies have focused on Europe (40%) and Asia (20%); on economic viability, studies have focused on Asia (33%), Europe (33%) and South America (20%). We found positive-neutral (54%; 46%) impacts on deforestation, positive-neutral-mixed (70%; 21%; 9%) impacts on forest degradation and positive-negative-mixed (50%; 33%; 17%) impacts on economic viability. We did not find clear evidence that impact is linked to a specific region or certification scheme. However, scarce evidence on the impacts of the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), the application of various methods, and site-specific indicators in the individual studies challenge such comparison and hamper the generalization of findings. This systematic review provides an overview of the state-of-the-art research on the effectiveness and economic viability of forest certification, evaluates and discusses the current evidence base, and concludes with future research lines.
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The objective of this chapter is to consider the relationship between neoliberalism and environments. The neoliberal era involves governments overhauling regulatory environments that govern access to and control of nature. This entails shifting regulatory regimes, not merely eviscerating them-a re-regulation. We centre our chapter on three processes of re-regulation in the neoliberal era: 1) new regulatory conditions that allow for further exploitation of natural resources; 2) innovations in private and voluntary forms of governance; and 3) the transformation of environmental problems into market-like solutions. But all is not "neo", of course; neoliberalism inherited from liberalism particular ideas about what are the "right" ways for ecologies and subjects to be governed, the right practices through which humans should relate to and use the environments in which they are situated. For liberals, old and new, when all individuals pursue their self-interest economically, when they relate to nature and land through market logic as a resource to be constantly "improved," all of society will be wealthier. Yet liberal and neoliberal governing strategies rely on the violent rendering of whole peoples and places as less valuable, making certain people, species, lands, waters available to be sacrificed, developed for the supposed 'common good'.
Technical Report
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The overwhelming majority of Canadians want species at risk populations to recover - but population trends are sobering and will persist without intervention from policymakers. Smart Prosperity Institute and the Institute of the Environment at the University of Ottawa have authored an in-depth report on improving species at risk conservation in Canada, with financial support from the Schad Foundation, Earth Rangers, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC). The report draws upon multiple sources of insight including a workshop with key stakeholders, a literature review, interviews with SAR recovery experts, and an online survey administered to over 100 informants in academia, government, industry and ENGOs. The report diagnoses a number of problems facing species at risk recovery work in Canada, including inadequate financial resources, insufficient incentives for stewardship among private landowners and industry, patchy efforts to protect SAR on provincial and territorial crown land and private land, and not making the most of available data and tools to inform decision making. The report provides actionable solutions which outline how governments and other stakeholders can enhance recovery outcomes, including through greater use of economic instruments, multispecies and ecosystem-based approaches, establishing a comprehensive species at risk database to inform decision-making, managing cumulative effects, and using new funding tools for SAR conservation.
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An examination of three major trends in global governance, exemplified by developments in transnational environmental rule-setting. © 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. All rights reserved.
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In recent years, transnational and domestic nongovernmental organizations have created non–state market–driven (NSMD) governance systems whose purpose is to develop and implement environmentally and socially responsible management practices. Eschewing traditional state authority, these systems and their supporters have turned to the market’s supply chain to create incentives and force companies to comply. This paper develops an analytical framework designed to understand better the emergence of NSMD governance systems and the conditions under which they may gain authority to create policy. Its theoretical roots draw on pragmatic, moral, and cognitive legitimacy granting distinctions made within organizational sociology, while its empirical focus is on the case of sustainable forestry certification, arguably the most advanced case of NSMD governance globally. The paper argues that such a framework is needed to assess whether these new private governance systems might ultimately challenge existing state–centered authority and public policy–making processes, and in so doing reshape power relations within domestic and global environmental governance.
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Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is one of the leading forest certification schemes. While many studies concern political aspects and social outcomes of FSC, little is known about the contribution of certification to biodiversity conservation. In Europe, the Russian Federation and Sweden have the largest areas of FSC-certified forest. We assessed the potential of FSC certification for boreal biodiversity conservation in terms of standard content, and outcomes as habitat area set aside and habitat network functionality. First, we compared the biodiversity conservation indicators at different spatial scales in Swedish and Russian FSC standards. Second, focusing on one large state forest management unit in each country, we compared the areas of formally and voluntarily set aside forests for biodiversity conservation. Third, we evaluated the structural habitat connectivity by applying morphological spatial pattern analysis, and potential functional connectivity by using habitat suitability index modelling for virtual species. The Russian standard included indicators for all spatial scales of biodiversity conservation, from tree and stand to landscape and ecoregions. The Swedish standard focused mainly on stand and tree scales. The area of voluntary set-asides for FSC was similar in Sweden and Russia, while formal protection in the Russian case study was three times higher than in the Swedish one. Swedish set-aside core areas were two orders of magnitude smaller, had much lower structural and potential functional connectivity and were located in a fragmented forestland holding. We conclude that to understand the potential of FSC certification for biodiversity conservation both the standard content, and its implementation on the ground, need to be assessed. We discuss the potential of FSC certification for biodiversity conservation with different levels of ambition. We stress the need for developing rapid assessment tools to evaluate outcomes of FSC for biodiversity conservation on the ground, which could be used by forest managers and FSC-auditors toward adaptive governance and management.
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In this study, 236 regeneration areas (mostly clear-cuts) in southern Norway were selected by random stratified selection: 118 of the study units were cut before and 118 after the introduction of forest certification in 1998. The degree of compliance with biodiversity measures established in the prevailing certification standard (ISO 14001 and the Norwegian standard “Living Forests”) was compared in a field study, and the differences were analysed. In some aspects, a clear difference could be seen, most clearly in an increasing number of green retention trees and an increasing mean width of buffer-strips left along rivers, bogs and lakes in the postcertification units compared with the precertification units. Even though there was a significant increase in the mean number of retention trees, as much as 21% of the postcertification regeneration areas still did not have sufficient retention trees to comply with the certification standard and 41% had either too few retention trees or too few spruce trees according to the standard. Concerning the management of small swamp forests, and the damage done to terrain and prelogging coarse dead wood by off-road transport, little improvement was seen. The discussion examines whether it is probable that the changes seen are a result of forest certification in Norway.
Forest certification is one of the most important issues that have entered the forest sector in the past 15 years. There are many detractors and supporters of this instrument, but merely looking at the number of hectares certified and products carrying the logo of certification, one cannot deny that certification has gained importance, year after year. The overall objective of this study is to evaluate the effect of 15 years of forest certification in the EU forest-based sector, using the Delphi method. The analysis leads to the conclusion that the impact of certification in the EU forestbased sector is positive-neutral with respect to ecological aspects, positive-negative on the economic and positiveneutral on the social ones. However, its positive effect is limited, due to the fact that the changes needed for the certification are minor. An improvement in the information to both society and local people by the actors involved in forest certification could increase the positive impact on the sector.
In this article we assess the normative-regulative, discursive and structural-material effects of four transnational environmental regimes - the World Commission on Dams, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, the Global Reporting Initiative and the Forest Stewardship Council. Our analysis leads to three conclusions: First, transnational environmental regimes have significant effects that go beyond mere compliance with their norms and rules. Second, the policy instruments used make a difference in terms of the type of effect that is induced. While information-based mechanisms of transnational governance have strong discursive effects, market-based mechanisms primarily affect the structural-material dimension of world politics. Third, contrary to common wisdom co-operation with the state is not a prerequisite for private governance schemes to have regulatory effects. In contrast, of the four regimes analysed, the one that most explicitly refrains from cooperating with the world's governments has the strongest effects on public rules.
To solve problems caused by conventional forest management, forest certification has emerged as a driver of sustainable forest management. Several sustainable forest management certification systems exist, including the Forest Stewardship Council and those endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, such as the Canadian Standards Association - Sustainable Forestry Management Standard CAN/CSA - Z809 and Sustainable Forestry Initiative. For consumers to use certified products to meet their own sustainability goals, they must have an understanding of the effectiveness of different certification systems. To understand the relative performance of three systems, we determined: (1) the criteria used to compare the Forest Stewardship Council, Canadian Standards Association - Sustainable Forestry Management, and Sustainable Forestry Initiative, (2) if consensus exists regarding their ability to achieve sustainability goals, and (3) what research gaps must be filled to improve our understanding of how forest certification systems affect sustainable forest management. We conducted a qualitative meta-analysis of 26 grey literature references (books, industry and nongovernmental organization publications) and 9 primary literature references (articles in peer-reviewed academic journals) that compared at least two of the aforementioned certification systems. The Forest Stewardship Council was the highest performer for ecological health and social sustainable forest management criteria. The Canadian Standards Association - Sustainable Forestry Management and Sustainable Forestry Initiative performed best under sustainable forest management criteria of forest productivity and economic longevity of a firm. Sixty-two percent of analyses were comparisons of the wording of certification system principles or criteria; 34% were surveys of foresters or consumers. An important caveat to these results is that only one comparison was based on empirically collected field data. We recommend that future studies collect ecological and socioeconomic data from forests so purchasers can select certified forest products based on empirical evidence.
This article assesses the recent trend of cooperation among antagonistic private actors that results in the creation and implementation of issue-specific transnational norms and rules and the subsequent shift from public to private forms of governance. Many political scientists agree that authority also exists outside of formal political structures. Private actors increasingly begin to make their own rules and standards that acquire authority beyond the international system. This observation is often referred to as private transnational governance as opposed to public or international governance. Although the concept of private governance gains prominence in academic debates, it is not clear how private governance on the global scale is constructed and maintained or what specific or general conditions are necessary for private governance to emerge. Based on the review of common theoretical propositions, this article develops an integrated model along which the necessary conditions for the emergence of private governance can be assessed and understood. As most research has hitherto focused on institutionalized cooperation between business actors (self-regulation), this article takes a closer look at those transnational systems of rule that result out of the enhanced cooperation between profit and nonprofit actors (coregulation).