Transnational sustainability certification as a new extraterritoriality?

Authored by: Peter Vandergeest

Routledge Handbook of Asian Law

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415659406
eBook ISBN: 9781315660547
Adobe ISBN: 9781317337409


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In recent years, a variety of non-state agencies operating transnationally have emerged with the express purpose of claiming rule-making authority with respect to ecological and social practices. Specifically, they seek to identify operators who can demonstrate compliance with standards as verified by ‘third-party’ certification. 1 In this chapter, this world of rule-making and assessment will be referred to as ‘transnational sustainability certification’ (TSC). The term ‘sustainability’ will be defined broadly, in reference to both ecological and social standards. In the area of resource management and food production, such agencies include organisations set up to certify forest management (such as the Forestry Stewardship Council, or FSC), fisheries (the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC) and aquaculture (the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, or ASC). In addition, industry groups and non-government organisations (NGOs) have collaborated to establish organisations that certify many controversial crops and activities, most of which are oriented towards export to Europe and North America (such as palm oil, sugar, fish oil and fish meal, jewellery and tourism). 2 In some sectors, distinct certification organisations compete with each other in providing certification services – the multiple certifying organisations involved in producing sustainable, fair trade or organic coffee being among the more visible to affluent consumers. Finally, the turn towards certification has spawned a rapidly growing sector of companies and non-profit organisations that audit producers against standards (certifying bodies), or which help producers to comply with often extremely complex certification requirements, much of which involves supplying detailed documentation of the producers’ daily activities.

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