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Non-State Global Environmental Governance: The Emergence and Effectiveness of Forest and Fisheries Certification Schemes

There has been growing scholarly interest in the role and function of non-state actors in global governance. A number of non-state governance schemes have been created in recent years to set environmental and social standards for the certification of private companies and producers. This Ph.D. project focused on certification schemes in the forestry and fisheries sectors, as initiatives in these two sectors arguably has represented the most advanced cases of non-state rulemaking and governance in the environmental realm. The following research questions were examined. (1) How can we explain the emergence and spread of non-state certification schemes in the forestry and fisheries sectors? (2) How and to what extent does the organization of standard-setting processes influence standard-setting outcomes? (3) What are the causal mechanisms that link certification schemes and behavioral change; and when, and under what conditions, are these mechanisms likely to influence behavior?

In examining these questions, the project drew on institutional theory in political science and sociology – particularly regime literature and sociological institutionalist approaches to organizational behavior – as well as nascent research on global environmental governance. The empirical part of the Ph.D. project comprised comparative case-studies that examined the emergence and effectiveness of forest and fisheries certification schemes, with a particular focus on forest certification in Norway and Sweden. In addition, it was a multi-level study including the international level for both sectors.

To assess the effectiveness of certification schemes, the project examined patterns of participation, the effects of third-party auditing, and changes in producer behavior following certification. In assessing broader consequences, the study looked beyond the instrument itself to a discussion of the changing relationships among business actors and environmental organizations, public and private regulatory interplay, and the reshaping of legitimate rulemaking authority in global environmental governance.

This Ph.D. project was part of the FNI project 'New principles and instruments of environmental governance and the influence of scientific input', which was financed by the RAMBU programme of the Research Council of Norway.

Project leader: Lars H. Gulbrandsen

Project period: 2005-2009


Gulbrandsen, Lars H., Transnational Environmental Governance: The Emergence and Effects of the Certification of Forests and Fisheries. Cheltenham, UK/Northampton (MA), USA, Edward Elgar, 2010 (Hardback) / 2012 (Paperback), 213 p.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'International Forest Politics: Intergovernmental Failure, Non-Governmental Success?' In Steinar Andresen, Elin Lerum Boasson and Geir Hønneland (eds), International Environmental Agreements: An Introduction. London/New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 151-169.

Auld, Graeme and Lars H. Gulbrandsen, 'Transparency in Nonstate Certification: Consequences for Accountability and Legitimacy'. Global Environmental Politics, Vol 10, No 3, 2010, pp. 97-119.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., Non-State Global Environmental Governance: The Emergence and Effectiveness of Forest and Fisheries Certification Schemes. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Oslo. Oslo, Unipub, 2009, 234 p.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'The Emergence and Effectiveness of the Marine Stewardship Council'. Marine Policy, Vol 33, No 4, 2009, pp. 654-660.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Internasjonal skogpolitikk: Fra stat til marked' ('International Forest Politics: From Public to Privat Sector Initiatives'). In Andresen, Steinar, Elin Lerum Boasson and Geir Hønneland (eds): Internasjonal miljøpolitikk ('International Environmental Politics'). Bergen, Fagbokforlaget, 2008, pp. 168-185. In Norwegian.

Auld, Graeme , Lars H. Gulbrandsen and Constance L. McDermott, 'Certification Schemes and the Impacts on Forests and Forestry'. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol 33, 2008, pp. 187-211.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Organizing Accountability in Transnational Standards Organizations: The Forest Stewardship Council as a Good Governance Model'. In Boström, Magnus and Christina Garsten (eds), Organizing Transnational Accountability. Cheltenham (UK)/Northhampton (USA), Edward Elgar, 2008, pp. 61-79.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Accountability Arrangements in Non-State Standards Organizations: Instrumental Design and Imitation'. Organization, Vol 15, No 4, 2008, pp. 563-583.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H, 'The Role of Science in Environmental Governance: Competing Knowledge Producers in Swedish and Norwegian Forestry'. Global Environmental Politics, Vol 8, No 2, 2008, pp. 99-122.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H, 'Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)'; 'Labelling'; 'Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)'; 'Rainforest Alliance Certification'. In Visser, W., D. Matten, M. Pohl and N. Tolhurst (eds), The A to Z of Corporate Social Responsibility: A Complete Reference Guide to Concepts, Codes and Organisations. Chichester (UK), John Wiley & Sons, 2007, pp. 225; 297-299; 320 and 384-385.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Creating Markets for Eco-labelling: Are Consumers Insignificant?'. International Journal of Consumer Studies, Vol 30, No 5, 2006, pp. 477-489.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Explaining Different Approaches to Voluntary Standards: A Study of Forest Certification Choices in Norway and Sweden', Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, Vol 7, No 1, 2005, pp. 43-59.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'The Effectiveness of Non-State Governance Schemes: A Comparative Study of Forest Certification in Norway and Sweden', International Environmental Agreements, Vol 5, No 2, 2005, pp. 125-149.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Sustainable Forestry in Sweden: The Effect of Competition Among Private Certification Schemes', The Journal of Environment and Development, Vol 14, No 3, 2005, pp. 338-355.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Mark of Sustainability? Challenges for Fishery and Forestry Eco-labeling'. Environment, Vol 47, No 5, 2005, pp. 8-23.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Overlapping Public and Private Governance: Can Forest Certification Fill the Gaps in the Global Forest Regime?'. Global Environmental Politics, Vol 4, No 2, 2004, pp. 75-99.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'The Evolving Forest Regime and Domestic Actors: Strategic or Normative Adaptation?'. Environmental Politics, Vol 12, No 2, 2003, pp. 95-114.

Commentary articles:

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Vett og uvett om Union' (About the closure of Norske Skog's Union paper mill). Aftenposten, 7 October 2005. In Norwegian.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Forvirring om samfunnsansvar' ('Confusion about Corporate Social Responsibility)'. Aftenposten, 10 August 2005. In Norwegian.

Gulbrandsen, Lars H., 'Norske Skogs nei til Union' ('Norske Skog's No to Union Paper Mill'). Aftenposten, 2 August 2005. In Norwegian.
 Related focal points of research:

   Biodiversity and genetic resources
   Global environmental governance and law

Project funding:

   The Research Council of Norway

Recent relevant FNI News:

FNI Book Examines the Impact of Certification Schemes on Environmental Governance (23.08.2010)

Lars H. Gulbrandsen Obtains PhD Degree on Environmental Certification in the Forestry and Fisheries Sectors (01.04.09)

 Recent media coverage:

'Lars H. Gulbrandsen: Transnational environmental governance: the emergence and effects of the certification of forests and fisheries Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2010', (book review), International Environmental Agreements, 2012.

'Transnational Environmental Governance: The Emergence and Effects of the Certification of Forests and Fisheries' (book review), Review of Policy Research, Vol 29, No 3, pp 442-444, 2012.

'Transnational Environmental Governance: The Emergence and Effects of the Certification of Forests and Fisheries' (book review), Environment and Planning C, Vol 29, pp 567-570, 2011.

''Eco-Friendly' Chilean Sea Bass May Not Be So Green', ScienceNOW, 22.08.2011.

Related document:

FNI Research on Biological Diversity. Information brochure (PDF, 0.5 Mb)

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