In “The Search for Credible Information in Social and Environmental Global Governance: The Kosher Label,” Duke University’s Shana Starobin and Erika Weinthal examine why some third party certifiers are more credible than others.
An Abstract in The Berkeley Electronic Press sums up their analysis: “Hundreds of ‘eco-labels’ and ‘social labels’ exist for consumer products. These labels claim to provide information about characteristics of these products, which consumers cannot directly observe but which many of them consider desirable, such as low environmental impact, good treatment of workers during production, and relatively high prices paid to the local producers of ingredients from developing countries. Third-party certifiers are supposed to solve the well-known problem that a producer’s unilateral declarations lack credibility, given the producer’s conflict of interest and the information asymmetries between producer and consumer. Much of the literature on global private regulation – through standards for environmental sustainability, corporate social responsibility, among others – assumes that third-party certification works (i.e., overcomes the problems of producer self-declaration). But closer inspection shows that many third-party certifiers lack credibility. This article examines why some third party certifiers are more credible than others. In doing so, (Starobin and Weinthal) elucidate the ways in which social capital and trust bolster third party certifiers’ credibility. The empirical analysis focuses primarily on Kosher food labels within the global food supply chain. We then explore the consequences of the credibility paradox for other third party certified labels that promote social and environmental values.
The full article requires logging in to the Berkeley Electronic Press site but is free and available to the public.
About Ms. Starobin and Professor Weinthal
Shana Starobin has been a Senior Fellow at the North Carolina Research Triangle-based Institute for Sustainable Development since January, 2009, and is currently a PhD student at Duke University’s Nicholas School for the Environment. Starobin is a social entrepreneur and educator dedicated to creating innovative institutions and partnerships that promote social, environmental and economic sustainability from the bottom-up. Currently pursuing her PhD in Environmental Science and Policy at Duke’s Nicolas School of the Environment, Starobin supports the Institute’s research and emerging initiatives, including the National Fellows Program and Sustainable Enterprise Clinic. At Duke, Starobin served as President and Co-Founder of the Duke Microfinance Leadership Initiative, facilitating the growth of its interdisciplinary leadership team and launch of core programs, including the Investment Fund and Flip It, a collaboration with Institute. She has worked with a wide array of organizations in the U.S. and abroad around the issues of environmental sustainability, social enterprise, microfinance and community-based development, including AJWS, Ashoka, BRAC, FINCA, Friends of the Earth, and Green Corps. Shana holds two Masters degrees from Duke in Environmental Management and Public Policy as well as a BA from Harvard College.
Erika Weinthal, PhD, is Associate Professor of Environmental Policy at the Nicholas School. Weinthal’s experience lies in environmental policy, international environmental institutions, the political-economy of the resource curse, water cooperation and conflict, and environmental security. Weinthal’s primary area of expertise is environmental policy. Her secondary areas of expertise include energy and water quality.
Weinthal holds a PhD Political Science from Columbia University (1998); an MPhil Political Science from Columbia University (1994); an MA Political Science from Columbia University (1993); and a BA Government and Environmental Studies, Oberlin College (1989).
Starobin, Shana and Weinthal, Erika (2010) “The Search for Credible Information in Social and Environmental Global Governance: The Kosher Label,” Business and Politics: Vol. 12 : Iss. 3, Article 8. DOI: 10.2202/1469-3569.1322 Available at: http://www.bepress.com/bap/vol12/iss3/art8
The Institute for Sustainable Development