Matteo Fiorini, Bernard Hoekman, Marion Jansen, Philip Schleifer, Olga Solleder, Regina Taimasova, Joseph Wozniak · 2019
Development Policy Review

Institutional design of voluntary sustainability standards systems: Evidence from a new database

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) have become a significant element of the governance of international trade and production. Even though VSS are not mandatory (required by law), in practice they are often necessary for producers to participate in global value chains. Finally, VSS are often considered costly for producers. This article provides an overview of the global VSS landscape, and addresses the following questions: how producer‐friendly are VSS, and how do their practices towards producers vary with relevant features of VSS institutional design? The analysis is empirical, and it is based on a data collection project called Standards Map (SM), launched in 2011 by the International Trade Centre (ITC). The analysis covers a population of up to 180 VSS. This large‐n approach allows for a macro‐perspective which complements the existing literature characterized by micro‐level studies. Our analysis documents a significant heterogeneity in producer‐friendly practices across VSS. We find that participation in meta‐governance organizations (such as ISEAL full membership) is strongly associated with producer‐friendly practices. Moreover, the location of headquarters in Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) member countries, the engagement of buyers in the board or management of the scheme and the influence of producers in decision‐making are also positively associated with our measures of producer friendliness, although these relationships are found to be less robust. The dimension of VSS we have focused on is just one element of the information contained in the SM database. Other relevant dimensions of standards systems, such as the structure of requirements, their product scope—and other aspects of institutional design, such as verification procedures, stakeholder engagement, harmonization or convergence vs. competition between different schemes—can all be analysed using the database. We hope the descriptive analysis undertaken in this article will help the research community to make better use of this source of information.

Full publication is available on: DOI 10.1111/dpr.12379

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Marion Jansen

Marion Jansen

Ms. Marion Jansen is Director of the Trade and Agriculture Directorate (TAD) at the OECD since 14 September 2020. Before joining the OECD, Ms. Jansen was the Director for the Division of Market Development and Chief Economist at the International Trade Centre (ITC) in Geneva having also been their Section Chief for Research and Strategies for Exports (2014-2018). She was responsible for ITC’s flagship publication, the SME Competitiveness Outlook, oversaw ITC’s contributions to G20 processes, led the agency’s export strategy work and oversaw ITC’s work on trade and firm level data. Prior to this, she held different positions in the Economic Research and Statistics Division of the World Trade Organization (2012-2014; 1999-2009). As a counsellor, she provided economic advice to WTO dispute settlement panels, co-managed the WTO Chairs Programme and provided lead contributions to the WTO’s World Trade Report. From 2009 to 2012, Marion Jansen was the Head of the Trade and Employment Programme at the International Labour Organization in Geneva. In this role, she oversaw research, policy advice and technical assistance on trade and employment. She also developed a stream of work on skills for trade and economic diversification. From 1998-1999 Marion Jansen worked in the private sector (Maxwell Stamp PLC, UK). Ms. Jansen has published widely on international trade and global governance, including on regional integration, services liberalization and agricultural trade. She has lectured in multiple academic institutions, including the University of Geneva and the World Trade Institute. Ms Jansen, holds a Doctorate Degree in International Economics from the Pompeu Fabra University (Spain); a Master's Degree in International Economics from the Universität Konstanz (Germany) and a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Economics from the Universität Passau (Germany). She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in International and Developmental Economics from the Université Toulouse 1 Capitole (France).

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