IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Efficacy of Private Voluntary Certification Schemes: A Governance Costs Approach


  • Thomas Dietz

    (University of Muenster - Institute of Political Science & ZenTra)

  • Jennie Auffenberg

    (University of Bremen - Institute for Commercial Law & ZenTra)


What are the conditions under which private, voluntary certification programs like the Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade can successfully promote environmental and social standards? We propose that the efficacy of a certification program depends on three variables: its sustainability standards, enforcement mechanisms and its market proliferation. The stricter the standards, the better the enforcement systems and the bigger the market share, the higher will be the factual impact of a particular certification program. We develop an index to systematically compare the strengths of norms and enforcement systems across a selection of important certification schemes in the global coffee industry and collect data about their market shares. We use a qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) to analyze these data. Our results show: certification schemes with strict standards and enforcement systems possess only insignificant market shares. Certification schemes with more significant market shares have either loose standards and/or ineffective enforcement systems. We develop a governance costs approach to explain these findings. Stricter standards and enforcement systems lead to an increase of production costs. The extents to which these costs can be shifted to the market are limited. Certification schemes therefore have incentives to reduce these costs in order to increase their market shares. The results confirm that the capacity of voluntary governance schemes is systematically restricted.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Dietz & Jennie Auffenberg, 2014. "The Efficacy of Private Voluntary Certification Schemes: A Governance Costs Approach," ZenTra Working Papers in Transnational Studies 39 / 2014, ZenTra - Center for Transnational Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:zen:wpaper:39

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Current version, 2014
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    corporate social responsibility; sustainability; global value chains; transnational regulation; qualitative comparative analysis;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J50 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - General
    • K33 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - International Law
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • M14 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Corporate Culture; Diversity; Social Responsibility
    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zen:wpaper:39. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no bibliographic references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Finn Marten Koerner (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.