Institutional Design of Voluntary Sustainability Standards Systems: Evidence from a New Database

20 Pages Posted: 7 May 2020

See all articles by Matteo Fiorini

Matteo Fiorini

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS)

Bernard Hoekman

Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies; European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Marion Jansen

International Trade Centre

Philip Schleifer

University of Amsterdam - Department of Political Science

Olga Solleder

International Trade Centre (ITC)

Regina Taimasova

International Trade Centre (ITC)

Joseph Wozniak

International Trade Centre (ITC)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: July 2019

Abstract

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) have become a significant element of the governance of international trade and production. Even though VSS are not mandatory (required by law), in practice they are often necessary for producers to participate in global value chains. Finally, VSS are often considered costly for producers. This article provides an overview of the global VSS landscape, and addresses the following questions: how producer‐friendly are VSS, and how do their practices towards producers vary with relevant features of VSS institutional design? The analysis is empirical, and it is based on a data collection project called Standards Map (SM), launched in 2011 by the International Trade Centre (ITC). The analysis covers a population of up to 180 VSS. This large‐n approach allows for a macro‐perspective which complements the existing literature characterized by micro‐level studies. Our analysis documents a significant heterogeneity in producer‐friendly practices across VSS. We find that participation in meta‐governance organizations (such as ISEAL full membership) is strongly associated with producer‐friendly practices. Moreover, the location of headquarters in Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) member countries, the engagement of buyers in the board or management of the scheme and the influence of producers in decision‐making are also positively associated with our measures of producer friendliness, although these relationships are found to be less robust. The dimension of VSS we have focused on is just one element of the information contained in the SM database. Other relevant dimensions of standards systems, such as the structure of requirements, their product scope—and other aspects of institutional design, such as verification procedures, stakeholder engagement, harmonization or convergence vs. competition between different schemes—can all be analysed using the database. We hope the descriptive analysis undertaken in this article will help the research community to make better use of this source of information.

Keywords: certification, economic development, SMEs, sustainability, voluntary standards

Suggested Citation

Fiorini, Matteo and Hoekman, Bernard and Jansen, Marion and Schleifer, Philip and Solleder, Olga and Taimasova, Regina and Wozniak, Joseph, Institutional Design of Voluntary Sustainability Standards Systems: Evidence from a New Database (July 2019). Development Policy Review, Vol. 37, pp. O193-O212, 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3594734 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dpr.12379

Matteo Fiorini (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

Bernard Hoekman

Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies ( email )

Fiesole, Tuscany
Italy

European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Marion Jansen

International Trade Centre ( email )

54-56 Rue de Montbrillant
Geneva
Switzerland

Philip Schleifer

University of Amsterdam - Department of Political Science ( email )

Binnengasthuis
Oudezijds Achterburgwal 237
Amsterdam, 1012 DL
Netherlands

Olga Solleder

International Trade Centre (ITC) ( email )

54-56 Rue de Montbrillant
Geneva
Switzerland

Regina Taimasova

International Trade Centre (ITC) ( email )

54-56 Rue de Montbrillant
Geneva
Switzerland

Joseph Wozniak

International Trade Centre (ITC) ( email )

54-56 Rue de Montbrillant
Geneva
Switzerland

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