Journal article written by 2012 DPDF Governing Global Production codirector Tim Bartley in Regulation & Governance.
After two decades in which transnational governance of production processes has typically meant voluntary subscription to privately developed standards, some transnational rulemaking projects are promoting mandatory compliance with law. The emerging timber legality regime is one example of this, and scholars’ efforts to theorize this regime have produced provocative new analyses of interactions between public and private standards. Recent analyses, including those in this issue, predict that the new legality regime will bolster voluntary initiatives that certify sustainable forests. Based on research in Indonesia and China, I argue that this prediction is questionable and that the rise of the timber legality regime could constrict, rather than expand the space for global private authority. Further, I argue that it would not be entirely a bad thing if the legality regime overtook sustainability certification. Behind these specific arguments are general perspectives on how domestic circumstances shape transnational business governance and on the role of states in pluralistic fields of governance – both issues that are obscured by more architectural approaches.