15 - Communities of practice as cause and consequence of transnational governance: the evolution of social and environmental certification  pp. 347-374

Communities of practice as cause and consequence of transnational governance: the evolution of social and environmental certification

By Tim Bartley and Shawna N. Smith

Image View Previous Chapter Next Chapter



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.

Adler, E. 2005. Communitarian international relations: The epistemic foundations of international relations. New York: Routledge.
Armbruster-Sandoval, R. 2005. Globalization and cross-border labor solidarity in the Americas: The anti-sweatshop movement and the struggle for social justice. New York: Routledge.
Auld, G. 2007. “The institutionalization of global private regulation: Lessons from social and environmental certification in the coffee, forestry, and fishery sectors.” Paper presented at the conference of the American Political Science Association, Chicago, August.
Auld, G., Balboa, C., Bartley, T. Levin, K. and Cashore, B. 2007. “The spread of the certification model: Understanding the evolution of non-state market-driven governance.” Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Studies Association, Chicago, February.
Bartley, T. 2007a. “How foundations shape social movements: The construction of an organizational field and the rise of forest certification,” Social Problems 54: 229–55.
Bartley, T. 2007b. “Institutional emergence in an era of globalization: The rise of transnational private regulation of labor and environmental conditions,” American Journal of Sociology 113: 297–351.
Bartley, T. and Smith, S. 2008. “Structuring transnational fields of governance: Network evolution and boundary-setting in the world of standards.” Working paper, Department of Sociology, Indiana University.
Bernstein, S. and Cashore, B. 2007. “Can non-state global governance be legitimate? An analytical framework,” Regulation & Governance 1: 347–71.
Bernstein, S. and Hannah, E. 2008. “Non-state global standard setting and the WTO: Legitimacy and the need for regulatory space,” Journal of International Economic Law 11: 575–608.
Boli, J. 2006. “The rationalization of virtue and virtuosity in world society,” in Djelic, M. -L. and Sahlin-Andersson, K. (eds.), Transnational governance: Institutional dynamics of regulation. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 95–118.
Boltanski, L. and Thévenot, L. 2006. On justification: Economies of worth. Princeton University Press.
Bonacich, E. and Appelbaum, R. P. 2000. Behind the label: Inequality in the Los Angeles apparel industry. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Bunting, B. 2001. “Buy a fish, buy a coral, save a reef.” Presentation at the Marine Ornamentals 2001 conference, Lake Buena Vista, FL. www.aquariumcouncil.org/pdf/FINALStingspeech.pdf. Accessed February 11, 2007.
Cashore, B., Auld, G. and Newsom, D. 2004. Governing through markets: Forest certification and the emergence of non-state authority. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Cheit, R. E. 1990. Setting safety standards: Regulation in the public and private sectors. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Chevriot, R. 1972. “Letter to organic agriculture groups: Subject: Creation of an international federation.” IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements), www.ifoam.org/about_ifoam/inside_ifoam/pdfs/Founding_Letter.pdf.
Conley, J. M. and Williams, C. A. 2008. “The corporate social responsibility movement as an ethnographic problem,” UNC Legal Studies Research Paper 1285631. Accessed on SSRN, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1285631#.
Conroy, M. E. 2007. Branded!: How the certification revolution is transforming global corporations. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.
DiMaggio, P. 1991. “Constructing an organizational field as a professional project: U.S. art museums, 1920–1940,” in Powell, W. W. and DiMaggio, P. (eds.), The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. University of Chicago Press, pp. 267–92.
Dingwerth, K. and Pattberg, P. 2009. “World politics and organizational fields: The case of transnational sustainability governance,” European Journal of International Relations 15 (forthcoming).
Donovan, R. 1990. Memo of 12/2/90. Personal archives of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) organizer.
Ecological Trading Company. 1990. “Letter of July 1990.” Personal archives of a member of the Certification Working Group.
Elliott, C. 2000. Forest certification from a policy network perspective. Jakarta: Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Espeland, W. N. 1998. The struggle for water: Politics, rationality, and identity in the American Southwest. University of Chicago Press.
Gereffi, G., Garcia-Johnson, R. and Sasser, E. 2001. “The NGO-industrial complex,” Foreign Policy Issue 125, July/Aug: 56–65.
Guthman, J. 2004. Agrarian dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Jaffee, D. 2007. Brewing justice: Fair trade coffee, sustainability, and survival. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Koenig, K. M. and Headley, J. 1995. “Sustainable forest management: Where do you fit in?,” Wood and Wood Products 100: 44–48.
Krupat, K. 1997. “From war zone to free trade zone: A history of the National Labor Committee,” in Ross, A. (ed.), No sweat: Fashion, free trade and the rights of garment workers. New York: Verso, pp. 51–77.
Labor Rights in China. 1999. No illusions: Against the global cosmetic SA8000. Hong Kong: Labor Rights in China.
Linton, A., Liou, C. and Shaw, K. A. 2004. “A taste of trade justice: Marketing global social responsibility via fair trade coffee,” Globalizations 1: 223–46.
Locke, R., Qin, F. and Brause, A. 2007. “Does monitoring improve labor standards? Lessons from Nike,” Industrial & Labor Relations Review 61: 3–31.
Mace, W. G. 1998. “Global commodity chains, alternative trade, and small-scale coffee production in Oaxaca, Mexico.” MA thesis, Miami University, Department of Geography.
Maquila Solidarity Network. 2006. “Is fair trade a good fit for the garment industry?” MSN Discussion Paper 1. Toronto: Maquila Solidarity Network. http://en.maquilasolidarity.org/en/node/215.
Meidinger, E. 2003. “Forest certification as a global civil society regulatory institution,” in Meidinger, E., Elliot, C., and Oesten, G. (eds.), The social and political dimensions of forest certification. Remagen-Oberwinter, Germany: Forstbuch.
Meridian Institute. 2001. “Comparative analysis of the Forest Stewardship Council and sustainable forestry initiative certification programs.” Washington, DC: Meridian Institute. www.merid.org/comparison.
Morgan, G. 2001. “Transnational communities and business systems,” Global Networks 1: 113–30.
Morrow, C. E. and Hull, R. W. 1996. “Donor-initiated common pool resource institutions: The case of the Yanesha Forestry Cooperative,” World Development 24: 1641–57.
Mutersbaugh, T. 2005. “Fighting standards with standards: Harmonization, rents, and social accountability in certified agrofood networks,” Environment and Planning A 37: 2033–51.
Overdevest, C. 2005. “Treadmill politics, information politics, and public policy: Toward a political economy of information,” Organization & Environment 18: 72–90.
Patrick, K. 2000. “Seven Islands achieves world's first FSC and SFI forestland certification,” Pulp and Paper Online article, October 12. Erie, PA. www.pulpandpaperonline.com.
Quack, S. 2007. “Legal professionals and transnational law-making: A case of distributed agency,” Organization 14: 643–66.
Raynolds, L. T., Murray, D. L. and Wilkinson, J. (eds.) 2007. Fair trade: The challenges of transforming globalization. New York: Routledge.
Rice, P. D. and McLean, J. 1999. “Sustainable coffee at the crossroads.” Report for the Consumer's Choice Council, Washington, DC.
Rodríguez-Garavito, C. A. 2005. “Global governance and labor rights: Codes of conduct and anti-sweatshop struggles in global apparel factories in Mexico and Guatemala,” Politics and Society 33: 203–33.
Scott, W. R. 1994. “Conceptualizing organizational fields: Linking organizations and social systems,” in Derlien, H. -U., Gerhardt, U. and Scharpf, F. W. (eds.), Systemrationalität und Partialinteresse. Baden-Baden: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, pp. 203–22.
Seidman, G. 2007. Beyond the boycott: Labor rights, human rights and transnational activism. New York: Russell Sage Foundation/ASA Rose Series.
Simeone, R., Pariona, M. and Lazaro, M. 1993. “A natural harvest,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 17: 48–50.
Waldinger, R. and Fitzgerald, D. 2004. “Transnationalism in question,” American Journal of Sociology 109: 1177–95.
Zachary, G. P. 2002. “Who monitors?,” Business for Social Responsibility (document ID 929), www.bsr.org. Accessed September 17 2002.