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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Co-regulating corporate social responsibility : government response to forest certification in Canada, the United States and Sweden Lister, Jane Evelyn


The emergence of private environmental governance has been interpreted in the policy and global governance literature as a “retreat of the state” or “governance without government”. However, the most established example of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) standard, forest certification, reveals governments endorsing, enabling and even mandating certification. Forest certification demonstrates that the state is not in retreat, but has simply shifted its role towards co-regulation. Despite the increasing evidence, scholars have largely ignored the significance of this transformation. This dissertation addresses this critical knowledge gap by developing the governance concept of CSR co-regulation, which serves to explain how governments are harnessing private rule-making authority alongside state regulation. Through a comparative case study drawing on more than 120 interviews, the research evaluates how and why governments within the world’s leading certified nations (Canada, the United States and Sweden) have responded to forest certification, and the implications for forest governance. The results show that these governments are increasingly engaging in certification through a range of co-regulatory approaches that complement, rather than substitute for forest laws. While the rationale for co-regulation are similar across the case study jurisdictions, government co-regulatory responses have differed as influenced by socio-political, economic and environmental factors within the local context. The cases also highlight how certification co-regulation benefits forest administration, decision-making processes, and policy outcomes and suggest that governments are engaging in certification for other than market-driven reasons. The evidence challenges the theory of “non-state market-driven” governance, demonstrating that certification is more accurately classified as a co-regulatory forest governance mechanism. Three new analytical tools are presented to evaluate the co-regulatory arrangements, and establish a framework to facilitate future research in this area. As well, the findings offer practical guidance to policy makers seeking new adaptive governance approaches to address complex sustainability challenges.

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