Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Challenges to the Legitimacy of Private Forest Governance: the Development of Forest Certification in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2012 (English)In: Environmental Policy and Governance, ISSN 1756-932X, Vol. 22, no 6, 424-436 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Substantial scholarly attention has been given to the effectiveness and legitimacy of private forest governance, especially the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Research has suggested that such cooperation between forest corporations and ENGOs may develop shared norms for responsible forestry. At least initially, however, conflicts are likely to occur since these stakeholders are accountable to different constituencies.Yet there are comparatively few studies on how such conflicts have affected the development and legitimacy of forest certification on the national level, which is where conflicts must be managed. This study explores how stakeholders’ search for accountability has influenced the legitimacy of forest certification schemes, drawing on developments in Sweden. The study relies on the theoretical foundations of governance, legitimacy and accountability, and on reports from forest corporations and ENGOs. The results show that these stakeholders have continuously disagreed on the input and output legitimacy of forest certification, though the positions have changed over time, eventually making ENGOs reject forest certification schemes. These repeated conflicts have been fuelled by the stakeholders’ search for public reputational accountability and market accountability. In effect, the very meaning of the FSC label is today being questioned. Thereby forest certification in Sweden has, at least temporarily, left the suggested path to the evolution of shared norms. These results call for related studies on how to manage accountability issues and power relations in forest certification.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Vol. 22, no 6, 424-436 p.
Keyword [en]
accountability; forest certification; governance; legitimacy; Sweden
National Category
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-60406DOI: 10.1002/eet.1591OAI: diva2:559844
Available from: 2012-10-10 Created: 2012-10-10 Last updated: 2013-06-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Constructing and contesting the legitimacy of private forest governance: The case of forest certification in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Constructing and contesting the legitimacy of private forest governance: The case of forest certification in Sweden
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In recent decades, political scientists have devoted substantial attention to the changing role of the state towards more inclusion of non-state actors in policymaking. This deliberative turn, or move towards governance, may signal inability to handle complex problems without cooperation with nonstate actors. On the other hand, governance is frequently credited with generating legitimate decision-making processes and results. In some instances, non-governmental actors have even taken the lead in policymaking. One archetype of such private governance, which has received significant scholarly attention, is forest certification. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is frequently described as the most democratic and therefore legitimate forest certification organization since it grants equal voting rights to three stakeholder groups in the formulation of criteria for responsible forestry: environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs), social groups (indigenous peoples and labor organizations) and forest owners. However, in Sweden, a country often described as a role model in forest certification, the FSC has increasingly received critique for failing to generate legitimate processes and results, and recently three of five ENGOs have chosen to exit the FSC organization. Such processes of de-legitimation have received little attention in the forest certification literature.

This thesis therefore provides a critical assessment of the legitimacy of forest certification in Sweden. Legitimacy is analyzed through concerned stakeholders’ perceptions of both procedural qualities (input legitimacy) and problem-solving capacity (output legitimacy). This study of legitimacy is combined with an assessment of the ability of certification to enhance environmental protection, defined as changes in both forest management practices and biophysical conditions. The thesis focuses not the least on legitimacy on the local level, which is where the actual implementation takes place. Today local studies of the legitimacy of forest certification are rare.

Both quantitative and qualitative research methods are applied and a number of sources are analyzed: forest monitoring data, survey data, interviews with and documents produced by the participating stakeholders. Papers I and IV analyze the perceived legitimacy of forest certification, while Papers II and III analyze forest certification schemes’ ability to enhance environmental protection.

The results show that a process of de-legitimation is occurring in Swedish forest certification. In particular, certification has lost legitimacy with ENGOs, which increasingly consider Swedish forest certification to lack both input legitimacy and output legitimacy. Moreover, although the Swedish FSC standard pays attention to reindeer husbandry, the results show that reindeer herders consider themselves to have limited power to influence long-term forest planning and management (low output legitimacy). The forest industry, on the other hand, increasingly grants legitimacy to forest certification due to customer demands, which are created not the least by pressures from international ENGOs and by EU regulation. The results also show that Swedish forest companies have paid more attention to their environmental practices after obtaining certification. However, to what extent these changes result in positive environmental impacts remains uncertain, especially since forests in Sweden grow slowly, which requires analyses over time. There are also measurement problems resulting from the low certification rate among small-scale forest owners and from the fact that certified small-scale owners tend to be more active in their management.

These findings highlight that research on private forest governance should not neglect the role of the state, neither as a buyer nor as a regulator. These findings also suggest that further research should pay attention to power asymmetries in private governance and develop methods for better understanding and evaluating the certification schemes’ environmental and social impacts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Statsvetenskapliga institutionen, Umeå universitetet, 2013. 81 p.
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2013:1
accountability, corporate social responsibility, eco-labelling, forest certification, forest governance, forest practices, governance, legitimacy, national forest inventory, private governance, Sweden, voluntary standards
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-63948 (URN)978-91-7459-528-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-02-08, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal C, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2013-01-17 Created: 2013-01-09 Last updated: 2013-01-18Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Other links

Publisher's full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Johansson, Johanna
By organisation
Department of Political Science
In the same journal
Environmental Policy and Governance
Political Science

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 138 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link