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The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification: Unpacking the Controversy and the Implications for a “Treelike” Grass

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Bamboo is emerging as an important substitute for wood and wood fiber. Although bamboo can be assimilated within existing forest certification mechanisms, there is growing controversy among experts regarding the applicability and efficacy of adopting such instruments. Through an accumulation of fieldwork, interviews, and discussions among experts between 2005 and 2014, this article analyzes the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, as well as proposals arising within the bamboo community. Through the lens of legitimacy, it analyzes stakeholders' views of the input legitimacy (processes) and output legitimacy (effectiveness) of FSC bamboo certification. It highlights the dissatisfaction with the third-party model for smallholders, as well the lack of ecological management gains within the FSC system. However, currently the bamboo communities of practice are divided about ways to proceed regarding creating alternative approaches. At a macro level, it highlights current challenges regarding the need to facilitate new resources into already existing institutions.
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The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification:
Unpacking the Controversy and the
Implications for a “Treelike” Grass
Kathleen Buckingham a & Paul Jepson b
a World Resources Institute , Washington , DC , USA
b School of Geography and the Environment , University of Oxford ,
Oxford , United Kingdom
Published online: 30 Sep 2014.
To cite this article: Kathleen Buckingham & Paul Jepson (2014): The Legitimacy of Bamboo
Certification: Unpacking the Controversy and the Implications for a “Treelike” Grass, Society &
Natural Resources: An International Journal
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The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification:
Unpacking the Controversy and the
Implications for a ‘‘Treelike’’ Grass
KATHLEEN BUCKINGHAM
World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, USA
PAUL JEPSON
School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford,
Oxford, United Kingdom
Bamboo is emerging as an important substitute for wood and wood fiber. Although
bamboo can be assimilated within existing forest certification mechanisms, there
is growing controversy among experts regarding the applicability and efficacy of
adopting such instruments. Through an accumulation of fieldwork, interviews, and
discussions among experts between 2005 and 2014, this article analyzes the Forest
Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, as well as proposals arising within the
bamboo community. Through the lens of legitimacy, it analyzes stakeholders’ views
of the input legitimacy (processes) and output legitimacy (effectiveness) of FSC
bamboo certification. It highlights the dissatisfaction with the third-party model
for smallholders, as well the lack of ecological management gains within the FSC
system. However, currently the bamboo communities of practice are divided about
ways to proceed regarding creating alternative approaches. At a macro level, it high-
lights current challenges regarding the need to facilitate new resources into already
existing institutions.
Keywords bamboo, cultural=political ecology, environmental sociology, forest
certification, forest=natural resource policy, natural resources, sustainability
Wood and wood fiber are key natural resources. Over the last 20 years, a combination
of factors, including tropical deforestation, the rise of corporate social responsibility
(CSR), and the roll back of the state, particularly within Western countries, whereby
global governance is regulated by ‘‘private’’ actors (Brassett et al. 2012), has led to
forest certification being utilized as an instrument to govern the sustainability of
forest resources in international markets. The scope of certification is being extended
to govern new natural resources; however, this practice creates tensions between
standards produced for existing resources and the materialities and associated
communities of new ones. One such resource that illustrates these tensions is bamboo
(Buckingham et al. 2011).
Bamboo is emerging as an important substitute for wood and fiber.
1
The world
bamboo market is estimated at $10 billion and is expected to double in 5 years
Received 20 March 2013; accepted 21 February 2014.
Address correspondence to Kathleen Buckingham, World Resources Institute, 10 G Street,
NE, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20002, USA. E-mail: kathleenbuckingham@gmail.com
Society and Natural Resources, 0:1–18
Copyright #2014 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0894-1920 print=1521-0723 online
DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2014.945057
1
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(Woodridge 2012). This is a consequence of new technologies that are enabling
bamboo products to compete effectively as a substitute material for a range of
resources such as timber, viscose, fiberglass, and construction materials. Bamboo’s
potential as a natural resource rests with its substitutability; however, this also acts
as a constraint. Due to lacking a specific identity, bamboo products operate in
markets with governance instruments designed for more established plant resources
(Buckingham et al. 2013).
Major purchasers of wood and wood fiber products increasingly require forest cer-
tification. This has been demonstrated, for example, by the rise of Forest Stewardship
Council (FSC) bamboo as a timber substitute (Mosobo 2010) and as a substitute for
pulp and paper (P&P) for toilet tissue (Baker 2012). These markets are currently
dominated by two certification schemes, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and
PEFC (Formally the Pan-European Forest Certification scheme and currently the
Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes), for market, reputa-
tional, or policy-led means (e.g., procurement policies). Other nontimber markets
for bamboo, such as fiber or shoots, require organic management, which has different
certification schemes and different demands regarding scale. This is problematic
because bamboo has to adhere to a myriad of different systems. In addition, in terms
of growth forms, cultivation, and scale, bamboo forests are distinct from silvicultural
(tree) forestry. Thus, although bamboo can be assimilated within existing forest policy
mechanisms, there is growing controversy among experts regarding the applicability
and efficacy of adopting such instruments (Buckingham et al. 2011).
This articlepresents an overview of bamboo certification. It analyzes the efficacy of
FSC bamboo certification (the only global scheme currently available) and proposals
for alternative, bamboo-specific schemes. It identifies the main actors and positions
involved in the debate, and reports on the key arguments being proffered by each. It
concludes with an assessment of future directions as an aid to policymaking. It aims
to consider how bamboo ‘‘communities of practice’’ are responding to the inclusion
of bamboo within the ‘‘technological zones’’ of forestry and what the implications
for the legitimacy of forest certification are.
Background
Theoretical Framework
The creation of FSC coincided with and was constitutive of wider trends toward CSR
within global capitalism (Klooster 2010). Market-based mechanisms, such as forest
certification, therefore reflect the social influences and ideologies of those promoting
them. These power dynamics are important; the most powerful actors, such as those
driving the schemes, skew commodity and value chains, whereas the less powerful,
such as local communities, may feel pressured to conform to the standards (Elgert
2012). Thus, the viability of certification schemes rests on whether they can simul-
taneously gain legitimacy among ‘‘core audiences’’ in domestic and international
spheres (Cashore 2002).
Legitimacy is a generalized perception or assumption that the actions of
an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially
constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions. (Suchman
1995, 574)
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Within certification literature, Sharpf’s (1999) two-dimensional concept of
legitimacy has been adapted to highlight the governance structure of input legitimacy
(as a formulaic accepted process) and output legitimacy (on-the-ground effective-
ness). Input (or procedural) legitimacy of certification has received more attention
than output legitimacy (Auld and Bull 2003), because political scientists have tended
to focus on transparency, accountability, deliberation, and participation in forest
governance over effectiveness (Schlyter et al. 2009). Either high-input legitimacy or
high-output legitimacy can compensate for a lack of the other (Backstrand 2006).
The practice of market-driven, third-party audited governance supported by a
network of nonstate actors captures the procedural practice of certification. This
has become the blueprint for receiving input legitimacy for many certification
schemes. Within this model, the audit has become a solution to a technical problem
and also redesigned the practice of governance (Power 1999). Although technology
has advanced since forest certification was first created (Sneddon et al. 2006), auditing
as a form of accountability has not changed.
Organizational templates, such as forest certification, are based on taken-for-
granted beliefs and rules (DiMaggio and Powell 1983). While the ideas behind the blue-
print of certification are institutionalized, there is an institutional ‘‘life cycle’’ whereby
rules and norms develop, become adhered to, then fall into disuse, to be replaced by
new arrangements (Lowndes 1996). Institutional change, therefore, involves at least
three elements: the emergence of an alternative archetype, the delegitimizing of the
existing archetype, and the legitimizing of the new one (Hinings et al. 2009).
The key reason it is important to examine the legitimacy of bamboo certification is
due to changes in the ‘‘technological zones’’ of forestry. Growing resource scarcity
means bamboo is now an input, and potentially an increasingly important input, in
the global forest products marketplace. For example, Barry (2006) articulates ‘‘techno-
logical zones’’ as an assemblage that accelerates and intensifies agency in particular
directions, with unpredictable and dynamic effects. Within technological zones are orga-
nizational fields. An organizational field establishes new codes of conduct (Hoffman
2001), which in this case is forest certification. Communities of practice (COPs) are
the actors that shape organizational fields. COPs are viewed as the innovators, instiga-
tors, and collective entrepreneurs for new forms of transnational governance. For
instance, COPs shaped the earliest experiments with forest certification leading to the
rise of the FSC (Bartley and Smith 2010). A newly emerging sustainability governance
field requires actors to access legitimacy and reputation resources beyond a single
organization, industry, or advocacy domain (Smith and Fischlein 2010).
Mainstreaming Certification
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification was originally designed for treed
lands, but has since broadened its scope to include so called ‘‘nontimber forest pro-
ducts’’ (NTFPs).
2
Since the creation of FSC, a new generation of certification in the
form of roundtables has enabled the development of commodity-specific standards,
for example, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Roundtables aim to
make entire commodity chains more sustainable, as multistakeholder platforms
where only private parties—business and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—
have decision-making power (Schouten and Glasbergen 2011).
Whether for roundtables or certification schemes, there has been much contro-
versy surrounding the top-down processes of the isomorphic models (Garcia-Lopez
The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification 3
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and Arizpe 2010). From the outset, the forestry industry (both industrial and smaller
scale operations) objected to the institutional design of FSC, the key role of NGOs in
its creation, and the ability of environmental and social interests to outvote econ-
omic interests (Auld et al. 2008). This resulted in the creation in 1999 of the PEFC,
which was supported by European private forest owner associations (Gulbrandsen
2005). The PEFC provides producers with the opportunity to create their own
standards (Auld et al. 2008) under a globally recognized umbrella. This counteracts
the risk of proliferation of schemes that can cause the loss of credibility within the
marketplace (van Dam et al. 2008).
Certification is based on third-party auditing of compliance with performance-
based standards (Auld et al. 2008). Certification generally includes a series of
environmental and social criteria that must be adhered to in order to ascertain cer-
tification (e.g., the principles of FSC are listed in Table 2, shown later). If criteria fail
to be met for minor areas, corrective action requests will be made; if a serious viola-
tion of criteria occurs, the forest unit risks losing its certificate. Certification studies
in the agricultural sector have shown that ethical labels can provide false assurance
to consumers about the empowerment of smallholders, which is insufficient to
challenge inequitable and unsustainable practices through slight modifications to
business as usual (Klooster 2010). This has led to a power imbalance between the
large retailers demanding certification and community forest managers who must
absorb increased costs of reaching the technical requirements for certification, as
well as paying for third-party auditors (Klooster 2005). Currently, there are signifi-
cant challenges to NTFPs receiving certification. These include inaccessibility of cer-
tification for small producers, uncertain tenure and access, lack of market knowledge
and expertise, lack of ecological knowledge for many species, capacity building
within the forestry sector, chain of custody, and narrow and unpredictable markets.
To date, the most successful NTFP certifications have been subsidized either by
donors or from sales of certified timber. For instance, NTFP certification is often
managed on small scales, making it difficult to attain economies of scale that cover
the costs of certification without ‘‘piggybacking’’ on other more established
commodities such as timber (Shanley et al. 2008).
Bamboo certification has a relatively short history. The first attempts to certify
bamboo under FSC were for Bambusa affinis in India in the late 1990s. However,
the community bamboo plantation did not receive government funding as originally
anticipated, and disputes over land ownership affected the ability of farmers to apply
for certification. In 2006 in Colombia, 34 producers came together for the first bam-
boo certification scheme (under the Small and Low Intensively Managed Forest
[SLIMF] program), funded by GTZ for the species Guadua angustifolia. However,
this scheme was not sustainable due to a lack of capacity building, lack of motivation,
the predominance of European- and American-based certification bodies and asso-
ciated high costs of technical assistance, financial dependence on the funding organi-
zation, and challenges associated with compliance and competition in comparison
with big businesses (Buckingham et al. 2009).
While certification schemes were initially attempted in Latin America and India,
it is in China that the most rigorous and far reaching assessment of bamboo certifi-
cation has occurred. This is because commercialization and intensity in management
led Chinese bamboo experts to consider the need for sustainable bamboo manage-
ment practices. China’s bamboo sector is estimated at around U.S. $5.4 billion (Marsh
and Smith 2007). While China boasts more than 500 species and the richest bamboo
4 K. Buckingham and P. Jepson
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resource in the world (Lei 2001), Phyllostachys heterocycla var. Pubescens (known as
Moso) now accounts for approximately 72% of the total bamboo area in China and
more than 90% of the bamboo economy (Dou and Yu 2008). The current challenges
facing sustainable bamboo management are monocultures, intensive harvesting, soil
erosion, and fertilizer, insecticide, pesticide, and chemical residues (Fu and Lou 2002).
However, this type of management is prevalent in only a few out of an estimated
1,200 species of bamboos (Lei 2001). This has caused controversy among stakeholders,
arguing that Chinese intensive bamboo monocultures are not representative of bamboo
management practices globally; therefore, mechanisms need to consider the spectrum of
species and their management requirements (Buckingham et al. 2013).
Methods
This article draws upon a body of knowledge accumulated since 2005 by the lead
author. This includes a period as an International Network for Bamboo and Rattan
(INBAR) volunteer (2005–2006), and research for a master’s degree conducted in
2007. This knowledge was extended through field research during a doctorate degree
program (2008–2012) and observations of developments in bamboo certification
since 2012. This study seeks to present a review of the findings of participant obser-
vation conducted over almost 10 years between 2005 and 2014. Different actors’
opinions changed during this period, but the themes remained constant. Themes
and responses to the controversy have been emphasized, rather than attempting to
quantify opinions that changed from considering bamboo certification as unnecess-
ary, to recognizing the need for a suitable response.
PhD fieldwork was conducted in China and India between March and September
2010 involving interviews conducted in India in Maharashtra state; in China inter-
views were conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, Hunan, Zhejiang, Guizhou, and Yunnan
provinces. FSC audits were shadowed in Kudal and Lavasa in India and Chuishui in
Guizhou, China. The ‘‘field’’ consisted of six areas of research: (1) conferences and
workshops (which provided access to stakeholders), (2) visits to existing FSC sites,
(3) FSC audit shadowing, (4) visits to potential FSC sites, (5) interviews in areas with
FSC bamboo (direct stakeholders), and (6) interviews with indirect stakeholders (e.g.,
NGOs and academics). The snowballing technique was utilized to facilitate access to
an increasing amount of contacts. Key informant interviews included certification
bodies, farmers and bamboo mangers, NGOs, FSC, PEFC, intergovernmental
institutions, government research institutes, academia, and companies requiring cer-
tification. The research was conducted with financial assistance from the British
Inter-university China Centre (BICC) and INBAR.
The PhD empirical data took the form of semistructured interviews, of which 52
were conducted in China and 41 in India. They were transcribed when possible (some
interviewees did not want to be recorded
3
), and manually coded for themes. Four
key themes emerged out of the data set: (1) the applicability of the ‘‘treelike’’ mech-
anism to bamboo regarding the in=ability for certification to promote sustainable
bamboo management, (2) challenges posed by market access, (3) challenges posed
by third-party auditing, and (4) the strength of the existing system regarding poten-
tial entry points for bamboo. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and
threats) analysis summarizes the key factors that add to or detract from institutiona-
lized legitimacy of certification.
The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification 5
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Results and Discussion
Assessment of FSC Bamboo Certification
China is the first country to successfully create and maintain large FSC management
units (FM) and chain of custody (COC), value-chain certificates for bamboo. In
2012, 19 FM and 351 COC bamboo certificates were listed in the FSC database,
of which 13 FM were in China
4
and 6 in Colombia
5
(FSC 2012).
6
A prominent issue arising from the research was whether the ‘‘treelike’’ certifi-
cation scheme could promote sustainable bamboo management. While bamboo is
a grass, it is housed under institutional mechanisms designed for trees (Buckingham
et al. 2013). Under the FSC scheme, bamboo can either be certified as an NTFP
within the matrix of a forest (bamboo being less abundant than trees), or as ‘‘tree-
like’’ within plantations or natural forests (FSC 2010). Bamboo therefore does not
have an identity of its own, but is classified as a ‘‘tree’’ if it constitutes the predomi-
nant species in the forest. A motion was passed to improve and expand FSCs guide-
lines on bamboo and rattan forest certification in 2005 (FSC 2005); however, FSC’s
approach has not fundamentally changed. Subsequently, because Chinese bamboo
plantations are considered ‘‘treelike’’ they operate under the Principles and Criteria
(P&C) of trees. Table 1, although a simplification, identifies the key differences
between bamboo and trees, including the different growth patterns, rooting struc-
ture, flowering patterns, competitiveness characteristics, fertility, and longevity
aspects, therefore highlighting the need for different management techniques. With-
out fundamentally recognizing the management differences between bamboos and
trees, this ambiguity can lead to no significant difference between certified ‘‘sustain-
able’’ and uncertified bamboo.
7
The instrument acts primarily as a trade barrier for
producers not in a position to certify.
8
Furthermore, there are different management challenges across species. Cur-
rently Phyllostachys pubescens (Moso bamboo) is the predominant species utilized
in China, and is ‘‘treelike’’ (monopodial), but in subtropical Yunnan there is increas-
ing need for clumping (sympodial) bamboo to receive FSC certification for P&P.
Likewise, the main commercial varieties being developed across India, Africa, and
Latin America are all sympodial. Opponents of FSC perceive the instrument as being
far more suitable to monopodial landscapes, similar to treed lands.
9
This is because
there is a lack of attention paid to sympodial ecological management needs. Three
significant challenges differentiate (particularly sympodial) bamboos from timber:
(a) the requirements of sympodial harvesting, (b) propagation with seed or vegetative
techniques, and (c) flowering.
Flowering is a challenge, particularly for sympodial species. Bamboo experts in
North-eastern India believe certification could be a useful instrument if it is adapted
to accommodate natural flowering cycles. The Cane and Bamboo Technology
Centre (CBTC) in Assam has created an independent national certification system
for nurseries, which was accepted nationwide in 2007. The certification system aims
to document propagation dates, in a bid to aid the prediction of flowering cycles.
10
Many bamboo species have infertile seed and therefore need to be propagated
through cuttings. The quality of stock can cause concern for farmers: The age of
the mother plant affects the time at which the bamboo will flower and die.
A bamboo-specific FSC standard currently exists in Ecuador, which has adapted
the P&C (Table 2) to suit the local context, but one has not yet been created for
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China. One Chinese bamboo expert noted, ‘‘In China bamboo is a type of tree,’’
noting, ‘‘[Certification] is a challenge of fine tuning; the whole system doesn’t need
to be overturned.’’
11
While from a pragmatic perspective many forestry and bamboo experts support
certification,
12
others are cautious about overstating the benefits. This is captured by
one expert highlighting:
Bamboo certification adheres to principles and criteria; the scope of
sustainable management is much broader. [It] can improve the level of
bamboo forestry within China, increase the farmers’ income and inter-
national exchange, which will enable China to develop production ...The
change has been quite significant.
13
Table 1. Some key differences between bamboos and trees
Variable Bamboo
Many
timber-producing
species
Growth Reaches its final height in 2–4 months Tend to keep growing
throughout their
whole lifetime
Growth occurs in 1 year with a single
cylinder
Grow wood rings
Rooting
structure
Rhizomes serve as the trunk; the
culms are the branches off the
trunk.
Bamboos have three distinct rooting
structures: monopodial (diffuse),
sympodial (clumping), and
amphipodial (mixed).
Have roots, trunks,
and branches
Flowering
patterns
The majority of bamboos are
monocarpic flowering once in
cycles. Depending on the species
bamboos flower once in 3 to
120 years.
Mature trees often
flower and set seed
on annual cycles
Competitiveness
characteristics
Can outcompete trees or other plants
for access to sunlight, nutrients, and
water through rhizomes and
‘‘invasive’’ characteristics.
Competes through
height in the canopy
Fertility Many bamboo species are infertile (or
have infrequent flowering) and
require vegetative propagation
techniques.
Many tree species are
fertile
Longevity Culms can decay after 5–8 years
without harvesting. The mother
plant tends to die after flowering.
Can last centuries
Note. Based on World Bamboo Organization (2012).
The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification 7
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Chinese experts were the first to highlight the need to consider biodiversity
conservation within bamboo forests (Fu and Lou 2002). It was the very same forests
at the heart of the controversy (monoculture plantations utilizing potentially unsus-
tainable practices, pesticides, and fertilizers) that became the first FSC-certified
forests. Large-scale areas of bamboo monocultures received certification in 2008.
14
Those involved in certifying forests claim they are making headway to ensure
sustainability. Those advocating mixed forestry management and so-called ‘‘sustain-
able’’ practices were exasperated by the result. By the potentially ‘‘least sustainable’’
bamboo forests gaining international recognition as ‘‘sustainable,’’ the market
mechanism marginalizes bamboo foresters with less capacity to access the system.
This has led to what can be interpreted as an output legitimacy crisis.
While bamboo certification has limitations in terms of output legitimacy, a
second issue raised was the challenges of market access. In China, Anji, Zhejiang,
has received government funding for the entire area to be certified. As this is the most
commercially valuable bamboo resource in the country, and the film set for Chinese
films, the government sees investment potential in verifying its sustainability creden-
tials. Bamboo certification is aiding government regulation standards.
15
However,
outside the province of Zhejiang, there is increasing demand for FSC; independent
P&P factories are keen to receive certification for fear that they will lose international
business.
16
Yet one of the key benefits of bamboo as a material is its versatility; there
is a limited market for certified bamboo products outside the scope of high-end
timber alternatives or P&P. It is therefore costly for the factories to adhere to
certification for a limited scope of their products.
17
An issue linked to market access and finance is third-party auditing. Stakeholders
in developing countries, and those advocating smallholder development, perceive
third-party auditing as a central issue. Standards are interpreted by auditors, provid-
ing the potential for bribery and corruption. This is a significant issue with FSC
within China. In 2010, the Chinese government halted FSC auditing due to corrup-
tion among FM and COC (Buckingham and Jepson 2013). Furthermore, research
conducted in India found that the cost of auditing would prevent certification from
being pursued. For example, a pilot project of 15 hectares including 20 farmers would
cost U.S. $1,156 per hectare over 5 years. Although this could be reduced by using
economies of scale (if more farmers were involved, the cost of auditing would be
Table 2. FSC principles and criteria
Principle
1. Compliance with laws and FSC principles
2. Tenure and use rights and responsibilities
3. Indigenous peoples’ rights
4. Community relations and worker’s rights
5. Benefits from the forest
6. Environmental impact
7. Management plan
8. Monitoring and assessment
9. Maintenance of high conservation value forests
10. Plantations
Note. Based on Forest Stewardship Council (2011).
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driven down through cost sharing), the financial and technical burden was perceived
as too great by the companies and producers at the local level (Buckingham and
Jepson 2014). This highlights that the input legitimacy based on third-party auditing
is a major cause for concern.
Finally, the strength of the existing system was recognized by stakeholders. By
mid-2010, about 56% of the world’s 355 million ha of certified forests were in North
America, 24% in Western Europe, and only 8% in Latin America, Asia, and Africa
combined (Bieri and Nygren 2010). Although recognizing many challenges financially,
industry experts believe it would be more beneficial to work with FSC to facilitate a
bamboo-specific mechanism than create a new scheme. Table 3 highlights the recog-
nized strengths of adopting FSC for bamboo; it is institutionalized globally, estab-
lished and recognized in the marketplace, as well as having the backing of a range
of powerful actors from NGOs and businesses alike. Stakeholders with an understand-
ing of certification feel it would be difficult to replicate, ascertain, or maintain the
legitimacy afforded to FSC with a new label.
18
The concern is that a new certification
scheme would be expensive to create, and would take years to develop, promote, and
build credibility from the buying public. Moreover, advocates believe similar admin-
istrative and financial problems would arise with any new scheme akin to the FSC
model, which pertains to the third-party institutional framework, rather than the stan-
dards themselves.
19
Furthermore, the FSC’s stringency regarding land conversion
(which must have been done prior to 1994) prevents the ‘‘greenwashing’’ that other
standards (such as PEFC) have been accused of. While stakeholders in China often
question what constitutes a ‘‘natural’’ bamboo forest, the standard creates safeguards
against the commercialization of newly created bamboo monocultures.
20
In short, the
power afforded by consumers and industries gives FSC input legitimacy.
Advocates highlight that adapting existing standards would be the most efficient
route toward bamboo certification since many of the P&C refer to generic forestry
resources such as laws, tenure, and indigenous peoples’ and workers’ rights. Although
many criteria require adaptation, all the criteria can be applied in some way to bamboo
forestry; therefore, advocates argue for a working group to adapt the ecological require-
ments to suit bamboo.
21
However, the P&C can be seen to represent a Western-focused
value system; for example, customary rights over land can be disputed, and questions
regarding whether ‘‘indigenous people’’ exist, particularly in China.
22
The International Response: Creating New Schemes
The research aimed to consider how bamboo ‘‘communities of practice’’ are responding
to the inclusion of bamboo within the ‘‘technological zones’’ of forestry and what the
implications are for the legitimacy of forest certification. Generally, COPs have res-
ponded by advocating one of three responses: (1) creating a bamboo specific standard,
(2) creating an enabling mechanism for smallholders that dissolves the third-party-led
process, or (3) recognizing the strength of existing systems and adapting them to bamboo.
Initially, global bamboo experts suggested that certification was unnecessary.
Increasingly, bamboo COPs are realizing they need to engage with certification if bam-
boo is to become a viable commercial material globally. With FSC bamboo certifi-
cation currently available on the global market, this has created pressure for bamboo
industries to follow suit. While some stakeholders are critical of China’s decision to
adopt a mechanism that has limited effectiveness for bamboo,
23
Chinese industry sta-
keholders however highlight that they are merely responding to a market demand.
24
The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification 9
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Table 3. Analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of adopting different bamboo certification standards
Scheme for bamboo Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
Forest Stewardship
Council (FSC)
–Established in the
marketplace
–Backed by a range of
powerful actors
–Institutionalized
globally
–Certified bamboo
forests exist
–Expensive for
smallholders
–Often bamboo-
specific
requirements are
not included or
developed
–Perceived primarily
as a mechanism for
trees
–Ambiguous policy
for bamboo
–Already an existing
system to develop
bamboo specific
standards
–More cost effective
to adopt an existing
system with
visibility within the
marketplace
–Proliferation of
schemes may result
in confusion in the
marketplace
resulting in
consumers opting
for FSC as a
recognized brand
–Growing discontent
with FSC among
experts
–If the controversy
escalates it risks
devaluing the label
–Expensive and
time-consuming
project that could
lead to few changes
Programme for the
Endorsement of
Forest Certification
Schemes (PEFC)
–Established in the
marketplace
–Known flexibility for
governments to
create their own
standards
–The most widespread
certification system
globally
–Institutionalized
globally
–Expensive for
smallholders
primarily due to
requiring
third-party auditing
–Perceived primarily
as a mechanism for
trees
–Already an existing
system to develop
more bamboo
specific standards
–More cost effective
to adopt an existing
system and not have
to create visibility
within the
marketplace
–Growing discontent
with forest
certification among
experts
–Expensive and
time-consuming
project that could
lead to few changes
10
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World Bamboo
Organization
(WBO)
–Bamboo specific
standards
–Endorsed by
bamboo COPs
–Purports to
‘‘guarantee’’
sustainable bamboo
management and
opportunities for
smallholders to
participate
–Would need to create
a brand and
establish legitimacy
within the
marketplace
–Not supported by all
bamboo COPs
–Verification system
currently lacks
legitimacy
–Currently a lack of
major stakeholders=
NGOs=businesses
support
–Developing bamboo
specific
management
requirements which
enhance the
sustainability of
bamboo globally
–Lower cost of
adherence to
certification for
smallholders
–Develops new
methodologies of
monitoring and
verification, which
could replace
third-party auditing
–Potentially very
expensive exercise
–No guarantee of
visibility and
acceptance within
the marketplace
–The absence of third
parties could
undermine the
credibility of the
system
–The close connection
with WBO may be
seen as lacking
independence
INBAR –Based upon trusted
FSC system
–More suitable for
smallholders
–Endorsed by
bamboo COPs
–Would need to
establish legitimacy
within the
marketplace
–Not supported by all
the bamboo COPs
–Verification system
currently lacks
legitimacy
–Lack of major
stakeholders=
–Lower cost of
adherence to
certification for
smallholders
–A stepwise approach
allows smallholders
to build capacity
–Develops new
methodologies of
monitoring and
verification, which
–Potentially very
expensive exercise
–No guarantee of
visibility and
acceptance within
the marketplace
–The absence of third
parties could
undermine the
credibility of the
system
(Continued )
11
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Table 3. Continued
Scheme for bamboo Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
NGOs=businesses
support
could replace
third-party auditing
–The close connection
with INBAR may
be seen as lacking
independence
Roundtable –Bamboo specific
standards
–Endorsed by
bamboo COPs
–Purports to
‘‘guarantee’’
sustainable bamboo
management and
opportunities for
smallholders to
participate
–Seen as a legitimate
form of governance
for commodities
–Would need to
establish legitimacy
within the
marketplace
–Not supported by all
the bamboo COPs
–There currently is
‘‘space’’ for a
bamboo roundtable
as one does not exist
–Developing
bamboo-specific
management
requirements that
enhance the
sustainability of
bamboo globally
–Potentially very
expensive exercise
–No guarantee of
visibility and
acceptance within
the marketplace
Rainforest Alliance –Recognized brand in
the marketplace
–Backed by a range of
powerful actors
–Institutionalized
globally
–Would need to
compete with FSC
for market share
–Currently unclear
how auditing will be
conducted
–Developing
bamboo-specific
management
requirements that
enhance the
sustainability of
bamboo globally
– Potentially very
expensive exercise
–No guarantee of
widespread uptake
and acceptance
within the
marketplace
Note. Based on evidence from all data sources.
12
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Moreover, China is witnessing a move away from FSC toward PEFC certifi-
cation (Chen et al. 2011). In the Chinese case, PEFC is being utilized as a nationwide
strategy that is considered more conducive to developing emerging economies for-
estry resources (Tian, Liu, and Ciu 2002). The government intend to create a bamboo
standard under PEFC. However, support for the FSC and PEFC approach is still lim-
ited. Proposals for new schemes are being developed that focus on sympodial species
and exclude the main commercial ‘‘treelike’’ bamboo in China. For instance,
EcoPlanet Bamboo investigated the feasibility of creating a roundtable for sympodial
bamboo. However, major challenges were envisioned regarding finance and capacity
to initiate a global system (see Table 3). As a result, the company certified forests under
FSC, working with supportive bamboo actors to initiate change within the system.
25
Experts working for INBAR are divided over certification. Although bamboo
certification was originally researched by the environment department, the project
was taken up by the livelihoods team due to the cost of auditing being a major
prohibitive barrier to compliance. This has supported the desire to use alternative
methods of verification rather than the institutionalized third party system. In order
to rectify perceived challenges for smallholders, INBAR has devised a stepwise pro-
cess. It intends to use the FSC P&C as the framework. Within a grading system, tar-
gets would be reached to achieve modular adherence to the FSC. As highlighted in
Table 3, the certification would benefit from the legitimacy of the FSC model, while
tackling perceived developmental issues such as third-party auditing. INBAR’s
scheme intends to utilize smart phones and information communication technology
(ICT) to record bamboo resources into a globally accessible database. The scheme
will be piloted in India because the model is more smallholder=homestead based,
rather than the Chinese industrial scale.
26
In a similar move, the World Bamboo Organization has proposed ‘‘Bamboo
Sustainability Certification,’’ which aims to certify sympodial bamboo. Because it
is perceived that the future of bamboo is in the tropics, monopodial species in China
would be excluded. The certification proposal focuses on the key differences afforded
to trees and bamboo, highlighting the growth and management divergences. The
scheme calls for documented records that indicate biomass, with data regarding the
size and number of culms. Like the INBAR system, it intends to adopt a global Inter-
net database that utilizes local smart phones. The local audit requires a management
plan that links production and sales. Forest governance is being revolutionized by
ICT and e-governance for administration, tracking, mapping, and crowdsourcing
of data (Castren and Pillai 2011), however, as Table 3 demonstrates, the legitimacy
of auditing using such technologies has yet to become an institutionalized alternative
to third-party processes.
27
More recently, in 2013, the Rainforest Alliance (RA) created an ‘‘alternative
natural fibers’’ standard catering for bamboo. RA is utilizing expertise from the bam-
boo COPs as well as industry such as Kimberly-Clark, which seeks to develop sustain-
able bamboo pulp and paper. The standard, not yet a certification system, aims to
draw upon the blueprints set out by the FSC among others to develop bamboo spe-
cific criteria that recognize bamboo as requiring separate and specific management to
trees (Rainforest Alliance 2014). At this stage it is unclear whether the standard will
be differentiating enough in the market to constitute an alternative to FSC. Recog-
nition of the controversy existing regarding alternative natural fiber development,
however, has led to its creation.
28
If RA brand recognition presents a viable alterna-
tive to FSC, this could enable a market switch to the new standard (Table 3).
The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification 13
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Concluding Remarks
As this article has shown, bamboo is emerging as an important substitute for wood
and fiber, but major purchasers of these products increasingly require some form
of forest certification. Although bamboo can be assimilated within existing forest cer-
tification mechanisms, there have been conflicting responses regarding the inclusion
of bamboo within the technological zones of forestry. This has meant that there is
growing controversy among experts regarding the applicability and efficacy of adopt-
ing such instruments. The article examined the controversy surrounding the bamboo
communities of practice regarding the input legitimacy (processes) and output legit-
imacy (effectiveness) of FSC bamboo certification. On the one hand, it highlighted
the dissatisfaction with the third-party model for smallholders as well as the lack of
ecological management gains within the FSC system. On the other hand, advocates
highlight that many of the P&C refer to generic forestry resources such as laws, ten-
ure, and indigenous peoples’ and workers’ rights. Such failure to recognize FSC’s
function as primarily a social standard leads FSC advocates to consider opponents
ignorant of the applicability of FSC to bamboo.
Currently bamboo communities of practice are divided regarding ways to pro-
ceed with different organizations creating alternative approaches to FSC. However,
a SWOT analysis identified that the input legitimacy of the FSC is a powerful and
institutionalized instrument throughout global production networks. This has led
an established brand, the Rainforest Alliance, to propose a new standard that adheres
to both recognized input and output legitimacy of current certification practices. At
this stage it is unclear whether this will result in a certification scheme, and if it does
whether it will follow standard practices of third-party auditing. Since forest certifi-
cation is based on a powerful network of actors and institutionalized practices of
resource governance, embedded within the global political economy (Bieri and
Nygren 2010), the creation of alternative schemes not based on a third-party,
NGO-backed blueprint could be problematic unless the emergence of a new archetype
delegitimizes the existing one, resulting in institutional change (Hinings et al. 2009).
As Neilson and Pritchard (2009) noted in their analysis of tea and coffee value
chains, there is a series of struggles that emerge as institutions negotiate the ability of
governance structures to determine social, economic, and environmental outcomes.
Although much forestry and NTFP literature has focused on the industrial versus
smallholder dichotomy, this article aims to go further by looking at the complexity
of a plant that represents more than 1,200 species, was historically absent for concep-
tualizations of Western forestry, and has only recently begun to be utilized; the
unique history and qualities of bamboo lead to questions about the legitimacy of
the institutions that govern the plant (Buckingham et al. 2013). Without the exist-
ence of a framework for the standardization of sustainable forest management enter-
ing the market, it is unlikely that there would be a drive to create bamboo-specific or
sympodial=monopodial specific certification. This perfomativity of certification has
led communities of practice to question the organizational field (certification) in
which bamboo operates, within the broader field of the technological zones (forest
management).
At present the lack of agreement among bamboo COPs could lead to a prolifer-
ation of schemes in the market place. In the late 1990s a plethora of certification
schemes arose in response to different actors’ visions of sustainable forestry, all
which were competing for legitimacy and support (McDermott et al. 2008). As
14 K. Buckingham and P. Jepson
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previously seen with the PEFC umbrella scheme, a fragmented alliance and prolifer-
ation of schemes may not prove to offer consumers choice, but may lead them to
resort to familiarity: in this case the FSC label (Auld et al. 2008). Moreover, Bartley
and Smith (2010) highlighted that the forestry COPs related to FSC were rooted in
the collective convictions and knowledge base of participants. They highlighted that
historically situated COPs have been responsible for the development of new forms
of governance, not isolated calculating actors. This indicates that the coherence and
alliance of communities of practice is essential in order to instigate change.
Acknowledgments
This article was written while Kathleen Buckingham was writing her DPhil thesis at
the University of Oxford. She has since graduated. The authors thank Graeme Auld
and Constance McDermott for their input into the DPhil thesis version of this article
and the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) for its support.
Notes
1. In 2012 Kimberly-Clark created three bamboo fiber product lines (Kimberly-Clark 2012).
2. NTFPs are a commodity group defined by what they are ‘‘not’’—being perceived as less
valuable than timber.
3. Part of the controversy of bamboo certification has to do with Chinese monoculture plan-
tations receiving FSC certification with suspected unsustainable practices—to criticize
these plantations implicates Chinese industry. Many Chinese respondents were therefore
unwilling to discuss this topic, and those who did often did not want to be recorded.
4. The first certificate dates from 2008.
5. The first certificate dates from 2011.
6. EcoPlanet Bamboo has FSC certified plantations in Nicaragua; however, these are cur-
rently not listed on the database. In 2014, Colombia was listed as having 4 FM=COC,
China 18 FM=COC, and India 1 FM=COC.
7. Interviews 13, 34, 45, 58, 59.
8. Interviews 2, 13, 34, 45, 58, 59, 61.
9. Interviews 13, 34, 45, 58, 59.
10. Interview in Guwharti, February 2009.
11. Interview 55, expert at the Chinese Academy of Subtropical Forestry.
12. It is a recognized certification system required for market access.
13. Interview 55.
14. Interview 25.
15. High-yield management techniques for Moso bamboo stands.
16. Interviews 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 45, 53, 61.
17. Interviews 45, 60.
18. Understanding of certification varies among actors. Those with a clear grasp of certifi-
cation as an institutionalized market mechanism understand the challenge of creating a
new system that would have legitimacy in the marketplace.
19. Interviews 7, 14, 46, 57.
20. Interviews 26, 47.
21. Interviews 4, 5, 14, 15, 47, 57.
22. Interview 32.
23. Interview 8, 58, 59.
24. Interview 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 60.
25. Interview 66.
26. Interview 9.
27. Interview 12.
28. Personal communication, Rainforest Alliance 2013.
The Legitimacy of Bamboo Certification 15
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Cambridge Core - International Relations and International Organisations - The Environment and International Relations - by Kate O'Neill
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Although current studies into Chinese food supply and quality provide different explanations for the causality of food problems there is limited inquiry into the role of the county state. This is a serious omission because firstly county government performs a key role in providing support for farmers through agricultural extension services and farmers' cooperatives ; and secondly, the county level is central to novel instruments that seek to manage supply chain relationships, such as the implementation of food production standards. We investigate who are the key players involved in standard making and delivery at the county level. We also analyze how and why the local state engages in standard setting activities. We use Lin'an's bamboo shoot production industry as a case study to understand how the local state implements hazard-free, green and mountain food production standards. The paper concludes that traditional conceptualisations of the local state do not sufficiently address how bamboo nature, knowledge of standards and state authority co-produce institutional capacity to control food supply and quality in China. By analysing the territorial strategies of a local state, we can identify the (re)production of nature; farmers' cooperatives and standardisation as major territorial strategies to help Lin'an county enhance its institutional capacity. 在探讨中国食品供应和质量的文献中,多有涉及我国食品安全的问题,但是对于研究县级政府如何管理和控制食品质量安全的文献却非常有限。本文指出研究县级政府的食品管治角色是不可或缺的,因为一方面,县政府通过农业服务推广和农民专业合作社来引导农民进行粮食生产; 另一方面,县政府以实施食品质量安全生产标准作为新型的治理工具来控制食品生产质量。因此,本研究以县级为尺度来调查谁是食品质量安生产标准的制订和执行者; 同时亦分析了县政府为何和如何参与食品质量安全生产标准的制订。由此我们以临安竹笋生产行业为例,探讨当地县政府如何实施无公害食品,绿色食品和森林食品的生产标准。相关结论显示: 传统的国家理论未能充份解释地方政府如何有效融合竹笋资源,食品质量安全标准以及政府权力来构建区域食品供应及质量安全治理体系。本文则透过区域策略的角度,分析地方政府如何利用天然资源生产,农民专业合作社和食品生产标准来加强临安县於区域上的食品供应和质量安全的治理能力。
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This article synthesizes the large but diverse literature on organizational legitimacy, highlighting similarities and disparities among the leading strategic and institutional approaches. The analysis identifies three primary forms of legitimacy: pragmatic, based on audience self-interest; moral, based on normative approval; and cognitive, based on comprehensibility and taken-for-grantedness. The article then examines strategies for gaining, maintaining, and repairing legitimacy of each type, suggesting both the promises and the pitfalls of such instrumental manipulations.
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When communities of organic farmers began certifying ecologically friendly agriculture, they could never have guessed how prominent the certification model would become. Nearly four decades later, consumers can buy products not just from certified farms, but also certified forests, fisheries, and factories – with standards pertaining not only to the environment, but also to “social” conditions of labor and community development. Firms interested in “corporate social responsibility” and “ethical sourcing” can now draw on a growing set of suppliers whose labor or environmental standards have been certified by an independent body. For their part, the certification associations that oversee this activity – the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, Forest Stewardship Council, Social Accountability International, and others – find themselves entwined in an increasingly elaborate web of transnational governance, layered with evolving rules about trade and standard-setting, competing initiatives, and a variety of questions about the legitimacy and effectiveness of their activities. Certification of quality and product safety has, of course, existed for many years (Cheit 1990), but the transformation of certification into a mode of social/environmental regulation has occurred mainly since the 1990s. Most observers of certification initiatives have focused on a single sector or issue domain. Thus, we have a range of studies of forest certification, organic agriculture, Fair Trade certification, labor standards monitoring, and the sustainable management of fisheries. More general theories of this form often portray it as a solution to several types of problems.
Article
This article synthesizes the large but diverse literature on organizational legitimacy, highlighting similarities and disparities among the leading strategic and institutional approaches. The analysis identifies three primary forms of legitimacy: pragmatic, based on audience self-interest; moral, based on normative approval: and cognitive, based on comprehensibility and taken-for-grantedness. The article then examines strategies for gaining, maintaining, and repairing legitimacy of each type, suggesting both the promises and the pitfalls of such instrumental manipulations.
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