When Do Private Standards Work? Literature Review Series on the Impacts of Private Standards; Part IV

65 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2012

Date Written: December 3, 2012


This paper concludes a series of systematic literature reviews on the impacts of private standards. This paper encompasses aspects such as the contextual environment under which the standard was implemented, the standard as an instrument, and the mechanisms that occurred as a result of implementing the standard. We used a systematic literature review methodology to evaluate the existing evidence on this topic. The screening process resulted in a review of 59 documents that were examined in detail. Research reviewed supports a set of ten initial conclusions: private standards have the potential to result in positive effects and lead to positive impact both at the producer and at the supply chain level; the effects of private standards need to be analysed in a broader system encompassing context conditions, instruments and mechanisms; adoption of private standards tends to be favoured in contexts where (i) the type of product has high requirements regarding traceability, (ii) in extractive businesses, (iii) where commodities are identifiable in end products, or (iv) where there are shorter supply chains with fewer actors; private standards tend to be more viable in contexts with higher levels of producer and institutional preparedness; private standards need to be recognized as ‘legitimate’ by its stakeholders, both, in terms of the degree of inclusiveness and transparency of the standard setting process, and the effectiveness of the standard setting initiative and its enforcement mechanisms; successful implementation of private standards requires a balance between global scope and adaptation to local conditions, the implementation of private standards is enhanced when clear and visible incentives for their adoption exist, at least in the short term, the role of the buyer is critical in determining the effects for producers, with positive impacts often being associated with mission-driven buyers. These buyers build close partnerships with suppliers, provide pre-finance opportunities and exert power mostly related to quality demands, positive effects for producers participating in private standards are often mediated by the generation of certain mechanisms including empowerment, enhanced buyer-seller relationships and increased credibility or self-assurance, there is a need to take a more systemic view of private standards, assessing the factors that influence their effectiveness at a single point in time as well as over time.

Keywords: Private Standards, Certification, Impact, Sustainable Development, Bibliographies

Suggested Citation

Alvarez, Gabriela and von Hagen, Oliver, When Do Private Standards Work? Literature Review Series on the Impacts of Private Standards; Part IV (December 3, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2184314 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2184314

Gabriela Alvarez (Contact Author)

Latitude ( email )

Ruelle des Halles 2
Lutry, 1095

Oliver Von Hagen

International Trade Centre (UN/WTO) ( email )

54-56 Rue de Montbrillant
Geneva, 1202

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