13 April 2018

New study on private sustainability governance in emerging markets


A new study on private sustainability governance in emerging markets by Yixian Sun, RA at CIES with Dr. Philip Schleifer from University of Amsterdam has been published in the Review of International Political Economy, a leading political economy journal.

Private governance programs are now an important source of regulation in global value chains – particularly in context of North–South trade. This has been reflected by the rise of eco-certification and eco-labels in many commodity sectors. Can these programs play a similar role in the value chains feeding into fast-growing emerging markets like China and India? Most scholars doing research on the topic draw a pessimistic picture. They argue that the scope conditions for private sustainability governance are not yet present in these markets. Yet, empirical research in this respect remains limited. We provide first study comparing the adoption of private sustainability governance in different emerging markets. Our analysis of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil  (RSPO) – a leading non-state certification program – in China and India partially confirms a pessimistic view, showing relatively low level of uptake for RSPO in these markets. At the same time, however, we find that emerging markets are not a unified category. We observe that sustainable palm oil is beginning to gain momentum in China, whereas uptake in India remains much weaker. We trace this back to a number of key market conditions, which we show are more favorable in China. In addition, our analysis highlights the role of the Chinese state in creating awareness of and shaping firms’ interests in sustainable palm oil.

Full reference: Schleifer, Philip, and Yixian Sun 2018 Emerging Markets and Private Governance: The Political Economy of Sustainable Palm Oil in China and India. Review of International Political Economy 25(2): 190–214.

The full article can be downloaded here.