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Biology Articles » Biodiversity » Small Number Of Partnerships Make Substantial Contribution To Biodiversity
For years, international policy on the environment and biodiversity has
not just been the concern of governments. Countless other organisations
and their mutual strategic alliances also play a significant role.
Without them there would be no sustainable fish in the supermarket and
no FSC wood at the DIY centre. However, Dutch researcher Ingrid
Visseren-Hamakers has discovered that only a small proportion of these
'partnerships' make a substantial contribution to biodiversity.
An important outcome of partnerships are certification systems for
products that have a major impact on biodiversity, such as wood, soya,
palm oil, fish or sugarcane. Thanks to these partnerships it is widely
accepted that sustainability policy is not only developed by
governments but also via market interests. Consequently by purchasing
sustainably produced products, consumers can make a contribution to
international environmental policy.
Of the 24 partnerships Visseren investigated, seven (the so-called
'gems') make a unique and significant contribution to biodiversity
policy; the others play a less prominent role and are less effective.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is one of these 'gems'. This
partnership was one of the first of its kind. The FSC has played a
significant role in ensuring that certification standards have now
become a normal instrument for sustainability policy. Moreover, the FSC
is unique due to its relatively high level of ambition for
sustainability and the fact that social, environmental and economic
interests carry equal weighting in the partnership.
The difference between the 'gems' and the less effective
partnerships lies, for example, in the high level of ambition, the
focus on results and the strategic deployment of the gems. Partnerships
are also dependent on power relations, the local politics and
government policy. A striking outcome of the research is that the
efficacy of partnerships is generally not facilitated if national
governments become actively involved.
Governments have an indisputable role
Visseren's research demonstrates that many partnerships choose to
develop less stringent standards. The environmental improvements that
must be implemented to satisfy these standards are relatively small.
However, this might lead to the standards with a higher level of
ambition and a higher environmental yield being priced out of the
market. Governments ought to ensure a level playing field for these
different types of certification systems. A new balance should be found
between guidance by governments and the market; more coordination by
governments is desirable. This way, both government policy and the
partnerships would become more effective.
The doctoral research 'Partnerships in biodiversity governance: An
assessment of their contributions to halting biodiversity loss' was
carried out at Utrecht University under the auspices of the
'Partnerships for sustainable development' programme that was funded by
the NWO programme Social Scientific Research into Nature and the
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