Certifying forests and factories: The emergence of private systems for regulating labor and environmental conditions
AuthorBartley, Timothy William
KeywordsSociology, Theory and Methods.
Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations.
AdvisorBreiger, Ronald L.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractPrivate, non-governmental programs for certifying companies as environmentally or socially responsible emerged in the 1990s in response to problems of sweatshops in the global apparel industry and deforestation in the forest products industry. The similarity between certification programs in each field is striking but has received little attention to date. Neither pure self-regulation nor traditional public regulation, certification programs embody a type of "private regulation by information." Why did this same regulatory form emerge in these two very different fields? Theories focusing on consumer demand, the globalization of production, threats of state intervention, and cultural diffusion all fall short of explaining the emergence of certification systems in both the apparel and forest products fields. This dissertation develops an integrated institutional approach to the emergence of certification systems, focusing on three dimensions of institutional emergence--political, organizational, and cultural. This approach calls for careful attention to historical process, macro-meso linkages, institutional embeddedness, and the dynamics of political contestation--with particular emphasis on the place of social movements in organizational fields. The project uses a comparative case study methodology, drawing on data from 37 in-depth interviews with individuals involved in the creation of certification programs, comprehensive content-coding of four trade journals from 1987-2000, and some archival and secondary materials. An analysis of the political processes through which certification associations initially emerged reveals two important factors--social movement campaigns that targeted companies and a neo-liberal institutional context. These led states, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and some companies to build or support private certification programs, and foreclosed some other options. An analysis of organizational founding shows how dynamics of innovation and challenge produced multiple certification programs competing for legitimacy in each field. The cultural aspect of institutional emergence is captured through an analysis of how the meanings of certification and monitoring changed over time in the industry discourse, as these practices got theorized and re-framed by a variety of actors. By utilizing an integrated institutional approach, this research illuminates the interactions of macro-level changes (like globalization) and the concrete actors (institutional entrepreneurs) that produced certification initiatives.
Degree ProgramGraduate College