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International Max Planck Research School
on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy


Olga Malets

The Impact of Transnational Private Regulation: A Case Study of Forest
Certification in Russia.

Studies on the Social and Political Constitution of the Economy. IMPRS-SPCE, Cologne 2009.
 
Abstract
 
In this research, I explore the emergence of environmental certification and labeling as a private market-driven instrument of global environmental governance and its implementation in local settings outside advanced industrial economies. I conceptualize the emergence of private regulation as active institution-building that occurs at two levels. At the transnational level, formal substantive and procedural rules and organizational forms are constructed and legitimated. At the domestic level, the implementation of rules defined as a process of translation of transnational rules into on-the-ground practices occurs. Building on an extensive study of forest certification and labeling, I show that at the transnational level, institution-building is driven by problem-solving and conflict-settlement efforts of transnational actors embedded into a larger discursive context of neoliberal globalization and sustainable development. Furthermore, I show that at the domestic level, the implementation is not a straight-forward execution of transnational rules imposed by powerful transnational actors – e.g., international NGOs, multinationals or international organizations. Rather, local actors negotiate the ways in which transnational standards are implemented locally in both formal and informal settings, and thereby settle political conflicts over natural resource management and construct new knowledge (learning) related to standard implementation and good natural resource management. They use both global ideas reflected in transnational standards and locally available concepts and practices as building blocks, and combine them in various ways in order to construct new knowledge. I, therefore, emphasize stakeholder interest negotiation and collective learning as core social processes which enable the translation of transnational standards into on-the-ground practices. The research also evaluates the effectiveness of forest certification and labeling and argues that forest certification has had a positive but limited impact on corporate on-the-ground practices. I identify two factors that limit the effectiveness of certification and labeling: national institutional and legal context and the market nature of private regulatory approaches.
 
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