Towards Transparency? Analysing the Sustainability Governance Practices of Ethical Certification

Helen Tregidga, Kate Kearins, Eva Collins

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Ethical certifications and their related labels are frequently seen as market solutions, but less often as sustainability governance regimes. Through an analytics of governmentality lens, we analyse two different ethical certification schemes operating within a single market. We question whether ethical certification and its related labelling can be relied upon to bring about ‘better’ transparency regarding the products offered from which various outcomes become possible – such as consumers making informed decisions, and various actors being able to hold companies to account. Consumer confusion, evident in our case study, calls into question ethical certification’s achievement of a reduction in informational asymmetries. Our findings also show how this confusion provided an opportunity for a non-government organisation and a government oversight body to ultimately call a company to account. Overall, we point to both the limits and potential of ethical certification as a wider sustainability governance regime by highlighting complexities associated with acts of both governing and being governed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-69
Number of pages26
JournalSocial and Environmental Accountability Journal
Issue number1
Early online date21 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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