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Philip Schleifer

University of Amsterdam

Philip Schleifer is Associate Professor of Transnational Governance at the Political Science Department at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Prior to his appointment at the UvA, he was a Max Weber Fellow and the European University Institute and held visiting positions at Duke University and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics. Schleifer’s resarch agenda focuses on the politics and and governance of sustainability in the global economy. His past and present projects investigate the effectiveness and transparency of voluntary standards in global value chains, the design of hybrid biofuel governance in the European Union, and the political economy of sustainable commodity production in emerging economies.
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publication
Towards a Smart Mix 2.0 - Harnessing Regulatory Heterogeneity for Sustainable Global Supply Chains

Over the past three decades, efforts to address human rights and environmental risks in global supply chains have spurred a plethora of industry self-regulation, third-party certification schemes, voluntary due diligence guidelines, and mandatory supply chain regulations. The resulting heterogeneity of initiatives, instruments, and standards has been subject to much debate, with academics and policymakers calling for a “smart mix” of measures to strengthen the governance of transnational business conduct. In addition to creating public-private complementarities, this includes recent calls for a better interplay of governance actors located at the demand side and supply side of global supply chains, often linked to the “North” and the “South” of the world economy. In this paper, we explore the opportunities and challenges of harnessing regulatory heterogeneity for sustainable supply chains through such a “smart mix 2.0”. On a conceptual level, we show how public regulators can improve the design, uptake, and compliance with private sustainability standards through information provision, capacity building, economic incentives, and legal recognition. Conversely, private sustainability standards may compensate for some of the weaknesses of public regulation by offering more speedy, flexible, and less bureaucratic implementation. Moreover, bringing Southern actors into the governance mix promises to create regulatory regimes that are more context-sensitive, equitable, inclusive, and comprehensive in their coverage. However, there are also major challenges. This includes overly optimistic assumptions in the smart mix literature about the prospect of enabling and sustaining complementary and progress-oriented patterns of governance interactions between actors with often diverging interests, worldviews, and power resources. In our critique of the concept, we bring these issues to the fore, thereby advancing an analytical perspective that is more attuned to the political dimensions of smart governance mixes. In a case study of forest-risk supply chains (palm oil), we explore these issues empirically. We canvass the increasing regulatory heterogeneity and evolving nature of “smart mix politics” in this supply chain setting, illustrating that the road towards integrating governance measures across sectors and geographies is not a well-paved highway, but a winding road with many potholes, construction sites, and the occasional U-turn.

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publication
Varieties of multi-stakeholder governance: selecting legitimation strategies in transnational sustainability politics

Multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) are often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ of private governance. However, existing MSIs vary strongly in their institutional designs and the ways in which they use inclusiveness, procedural fairness and, expert-based strategies to create legitimacy for their rules. This article investigates these institutional choices. It reviews arguments about demand from legitimacy-granting audiences, isomorphic pressures, and the role played by institutional entrepreneurs, and intergroup bargaining. It explores these mechanisms in an empirical investigation of the formation of three MSIs in the field of sustainable agriculture. Its findings advance our understanding of the conditions under which MSIs adhere or depart from normative ideals of democratic governance.

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Reviewing the impact of sustainability certification on food security in developing countries

What is the impact of sustainability certification on food security in developing countries? This article explores the issue through a systematic review of the extant scholarship, complemented by a selective review of key studies examining the wider socio-economic effects of certification that may affect food security indirectly. To guide the analysis, we identify three main causal mechanisms – economic, land use and land rights, and gender effects – that link certification to local food security. Our review finds that food security remains a blind spot in the literature on certification impacts. Existing research points to a positive, albeit weak and highly context-dependent, relationship between certification, farmers’ income, and food security. However, there is only indicative evidence about the relationships that link certification to food security via its influence on land use, land rights, and gender equality.

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publication
Voluntary standards and the SDGs: Mapping public-private complementarities for sustainable development

To strengthen global sustainability governance, academics and policymakers have called for a better integration of private governance with public policy instruments. Surprisingly, however, systematic research on the state of such public-private complementarities in the field of sustainable development is lacking. With a focus on voluntary sustainability standards and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this article addresses this research gap. It uses a novel dataset of 232 voluntary standards to examine how their policies and organizational processes interact with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and their targets. We identify significant public-private complementarities, but also areas of institutional disconnect. We further explore how the creation of institutional linkages in this issue area is driven by instrumental, managerial, and normative concerns and develop an agenda for future research. This includes research on whether and how intensifying public-private interactions at the transnational level translate into tangible impacts for sustainable development on the ground.

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