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Contesting Governance in the Global Marketplace

A Sociological Assessment of British Efforts to Build New Markets for NGO-Certified Sustainable Wood Products

Jason McNichol

CCOP Working Paper #2000-06
January, 2000

Recent years have seen an explosion of new attempts to develop and implement voluntary third-party certification programs to encourage environmentally and socially responsible production practices for globally traded commodities. This study seeks to shed light on the nature and potentials of these new para-regulatory forms by using a sociological institutional approach to examine one of the most long-standing and successful attempts to develop a market for certified products. A close look at the British effort at building new markets for certified wood products contrasted against the relative failure of its counterpart in the United States reveals that causal factors from three analytic dimensions-- political economy, regulatory style/conventions, and diffuse cultural attributes-- together offer a compelling explanation for the recent British success. The findings suggest that the analytical approach adopted here may be of use in explaining trajectories of efforts in other contexts, including the United States.


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