How relevant is the public private distinction in the case of voluntary sustainability standards?
Title: How relevant is the public private distinction in the case of voluntary sustainability standards?
Author: MARX, Axel
Series/Number: EUI RSCAS; 2015/30; Global Governance Programme-168
This paper argues that the distinction between public and private standards only make sense if one looks at the legal status of specific standard-setting organisations. If one switches the unit of analysis the distinction between public and private begins to blur and fade. In this context, two different unit of analysis are analyzed. One unit of analysis focuses on specific standards, while another unit of analysis looks at a more aggregated level and analyzes broader ‘public’ regulatory approaches in which private standards are embedded. Concerning the former, the paper shows that private standards are often based on internationally agreed (public) rules and norms. Concerning the latter, the paper argues that governments on purpose or in the design of their policies take these private initiatives on board. Hence, they become an integral part of ‘public’ governance. These arguments are developed on the basis of an analysis of Voluntary Sustainability Standards which constitute a leading example of so-called private standards. The paper first introduces the emergence, proliferation and importance of VSS. Next, the paper assesses how private standards in VSS. Next, the attention turns to the link between public policy and VSS. The paper ends with a conclusion.
Subject: Standards; Voluntary sustainability standards; Certification; International trade and global governance
Type of Access: openAccess