My research examines the role of businesses, NGOs, and standard setters in solving transboundary environmental challenges. This research program is inherently interdisciplinary and seeks to put elements of political science, environmental studies and business/management in conversation.
In the absence of comprehensive state-led solutions, a host of innovative transnational governance initiatives have emerged that use market forces to address environmental problems. The rise of these new forms of governance raises a number of questions. Under what conditions are they likely to be effective? How do they interact with the traditional authority of governments and international organizations? And what negative externalities do the create? I address these questions across a number of related projects, reviewed below.
van der Ven, H. 2019. Beyond Greenwash? Explaining Credibility in Transnational Eco-Labeling. New York: Oxford University Press.
Abstract: Green frogs. Blue angels. White bunnies. Modern consumers are confronted by a growing array of colorful eco-labels on everything from coffee to computers. Yet, not all of these eco-labels are trustworthy. Despite the existence of well-established best practices for eco-labeling, many labels remain little more than superficial exercises in “greenwash.” How can consumers separate greenwash from genuine attempts to address environmental challenges?
Beyond Greenwash addresses this question by systematically investigating the credibility of transnational eco-labeling organizations across countries and commercial sectors. Using an innovative proxy measure for credibility that examines adherence to established best practices, Hamish van der Ven proposes a novel theory of rigor and credibility in transnational eco-labeling that upends conventional wisdom. He argues that the credibility of an eco-label does not depend on who creates or manages it – whether a government, industry association, professional standard setter, or environmental NGO – rather it depends on which types of businesses use the label. Eco-labeling organizations that target bigger, consumer-facing retailers tend to create credible eco-labels out of a desire to insulate their clients from critical scrutiny and gain acceptance in new markets. This theory challenges the conventional wisdom that only governments or environmental NGOs can create meaningful environmental governance and suggests that who is being governed matters as much, if not more, than who is doing the governing.
Beyond Greenwash brings original data, an innovative mixed-method research design, and a unique measure of credibility in transnational governance to bear on one of the most salient questions in contemporary global environmental politics. In doing so, it lends insight into broader debates in political science and international relations about when and how new forms of transnational governance can succeed in achieving their objectives.
Refereed Journal Articles
- van der Ven, H. 2022. Effects of Stakeholder Input on Voluntary Sustainability Standards. Global Environmental Change 77: 1-10.
- Fraser, E. and van der Ven, H. 2022. Increasing Transparency in Global Supply Chains: The Case of the Fast Fashion Industry. Sustainability 14(18): 11520.
- van der Ven, H., Sun, Y., and Cashore, B. 2021. Sustainable Commodity Governance and the Global South. Ecological Economics 186: 1-7.
- Cashore, B., Knudsen, J.S., Moon, J. and van der Ven, H. 2021. Private Authority and Public Policy Interactions in Global Context: Governance Spheres for Problem Solving. Regulation & Governance: 1-17.
- van der Ven, H. and Sun, Y. 2021. Varieties of Crises: Comparing the Politics of COVID-19 and Climate Change. Global Environmental Politics 21(1): 13-22.
- Sun, Y. and van der Ven, H. 2021. Swimming in their own direction: Explaining domestic variation in homegrown sustainability governance for aquaculture in Asia. Ecological Economics 167: 1-11.
- Bullock, G. and van der Ven, H. 2020. The Shadow of the Consumer: Analyzing the Importance of Consumers to the Uptake and Sophistication of Ratings, Certifications, and Eco-Labels. Organization & Environment 33(1): 75-95.
- Singer, A and van der Ven, H. 2019. Beyond market, firm, and state: Mapping the ethics of global value chains. Business and Society Review 124(3):325-343.
- van der Ven, H. 2018. Gatekeeper Power: Understanding the Influence of Lead Firms over Transnational Sustainability Standards. Review of International Political Economy 25(5): 624-646.
- van der Ven, H., Rothacker, C. and Cashore, B. 2018. Do eco-labels prevent deforestation? Lessons from non-state market driven governance in the soy, palm oil, and cocoa sectors. Global Environmental Change 52: 141-151.
- van der Ven, H. and Cashore, B. 2018. Forest Certification: The Challenge of Measuring Impacts. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 32: 104-111.
- Bernstein, S. and H. van der Ven. 2017. Best Practices in Global Governance. Review of International Studies 43(3): 534-556.
- van der Ven, H., Bernstein, S., and Hoffmann, M. 2017. Valuing the Contributions of Non-State and Subnational Actors to Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics 17(1): 1-20.
- van der Ven, H. 2015. Correlates of Rigorous and Credible Transnational Governance: A Cross-Sectoral Analysis of Best Practice Compliance in Eco-Labeling. Regulation & Governance 9(3): 276-293.
- van der Ven, H. 2014. Socializing the C-Suite: Why Some Big-Box Retailers are ‘Greener’ than Others. Business and Politics 16(1): 31-63.
- van der Ven, H. 2013. Bringing Values Back into CSR. Business Ethics Journal Review 1(16): 99-105.
- van der Ven, H. 2021. Comparing Voluntary Sustainability Standards: Blindspots, Biases, and Pathways Forward. In The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Environmental Politics, eds. J. Sowers, S. VanDeveer, and E. Weinthal eds. New York: Oxford University Press.
- van der Ven, H. 2019. “Private Accountability in Global Value Chains.” In Global Environmental Governance and the Accountability Trap, eds. S. Park and T. Kramarz. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 63-85.
- Bernstein, S. and van der Ven, H. 2017. “Continuity and Change in Global Environmental Politics.” In International Politics and Institutions In Time, ed. Orfeo Fioretos. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 293-317.
- Cashore, B., Moon, J., Knudsen, J.S., and van der Ven, H. 2021. Private Authority and Public Policy in Global Context: Governance Spheres for Problem Solving. Regulation & Governance.
- van der Ven, H., Sun, Y., and Cashore, B. 2021. Sustainable Commodity Governance and the Global South. Ecological Economics 186.