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Can Advocacy-Led Certification Systems Transform Global Corporate Practices? Evidence, and Some Theory


  • Michael E. Conroy


There is emerging evidence that globalization is beginning to provide new opportunities for global coalitions of advocacy groups to bring market-based pressures to bear upon major transnational firms in a way that promotes higher standards of social and environmental responsibility in production processes and trade relations. This can be seen as successful citizen-led attention to the “production and process methods” which the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations explicitly chose to omit. More broadly it may reflect the increased importance of global branding, improved awareness in both consumer and financial markets of the social and environmental practices of firms, and collaboration on the part of producers to reduce their risk of brand-damaging attacks on the social and environmental responsibility of their practices. The emergence and growth of the Forest Stewardship Council as the “gold standard” for sustainable forest management, and the expensive attempts by the forest products industry to create industry-driven substitute standards, may be the pivotal example of this phenomenon. The further growth of certified Fair Trade practices under Transfair USA is another example. Both cases provide important lessons as to the elements of present and future success for this movement. They may also represent creative new solutions for problems of persistent poverty by using the leverage of markets in the global North to improve the ability of workers, farmers, and other producers in the global South to build natural assets in ways that generate socially and environmentally sustainable livelihoods.

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  • Michael E. Conroy, 2001. "Can Advocacy-Led Certification Systems Transform Global Corporate Practices? Evidence, and Some Theory," Working Papers wp21, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp21

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mark D. Shapiro & Steven M. Hassur & Nicholaas W. Bouwes, 2001. "Empowerment Through Risk-Related Information: EPA's Risk Screening Environmental Indicators Project," Working Papers wp18, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    2. Fortin, Pierre & Keil, Manfred & Symons, James, 2001. "The Sources of Unemployment in Canada, 1967-91: Evidence from a Panel of Regions and Demographic Groups," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(1), pages 67-93, January.
    3. K.A. Dixon, 2001. "Reclaiming Brownfields: From Corporate Liability to Community Asset," Working Papers wp10, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    4. Manuel Pastor, 2004. "Building Social Capital to Protect Natural Capital: The Quest for Environmental Justice," Working Papers wp11, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
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    Cited by:

    1. Vincent Terstappen & Lori Hanson & Darrell McLaughlin, 2013. "Gender, health, labor, and inequities: a review of the fair and alternative trade literature," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 30(1), pages 21-39, March.
    2. Gingrich, Chris D. & King, Emily J., 2012. "Does Fair Trade Fulfill the Claims of its Proponents? Measuring the Global Impact of Fair Trade on Participating Coffee Farmers," Journal of Cooperatives, NCERA-210, vol. 26.
    3. Michael E. Conroy, 2005. "Certification Systems as Tools for Natural Asset Building: Potential, Experiences to Date, and Critical Challenges," Working Papers wp100, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    4. Laura T. Raynolds & Douglas Murray & Peter Leigh Taylor, 2004. "Fair trade coffee: building producer capacity via global networks," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., pages 1109-1121.
    5. Anthony Hall, 2004. "Extractive Reserves: Building Natural Assets in the Brazilian Amazon," Working Papers wp74, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
    6. Sarah Lyon, 2007. "Fair Trade Coffee and Human Rights in Guatemala," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 241-261, September.
    7. Tulaeva, Svetlana, 2013. "Institutional trust: The process of trust formation in Russian forest villages in accordance with the international system of forest certification," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 20-27.

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