Our research can be grouped into three main areas: (1) Global Governance and Policy, (2) Firms, Forest Owners, and Market Supply Chain Dynamics, and (3) Environmental and Social Effects.


A. Legitimacy, Globalization, and Environmental Governance

This research explores the emergence and evolution of the institutions and rules surrounding forest certification and other non-state governance systems. In particular, we explore the emergence of forest certification as a policy-making arena outside of traditional governmental processes. Our main task is to understand the underlying features required for forest certification systems to gain rule-making authority - a matter of fundamental importance for those seeking to address environmental policy problems in an era of government downsizing and market globalization. A major output within this research area is the critically acclaimed book from Yale University Press by YPFPG Faculty Director Benjamin Cashore, Yale doctoral candidate Graeme Auld, and Deanna Newsom entitled Governing through Markets: Forest Certification and the Emergence of Non-state Authority, which compares support for forest certification in the United States, British Columbia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden. Other research projects include an exploration of differences in FSC regional standards and the implications of these differences on firm-level support. Finally, this track also examines international-domestic interactions as the FSC, PEFC, and numerous national-level certification programs attempt to increase their access to global markets while maintaining domestic legitimacy.

B. Comparative forest policy and governance

This track compares and contrasts forest policy and governance in countries across the globe, including industrialized and developing countries. A major current project within this track is the publication of a Global Forest Policy Comparison Book that will provide a systematic and transparent comparison of environmental forest policies and enforcement in twenty countries worldwide including Canada, the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Poland, the Russian Federation, India, China, Japan, South Africa, and Australia, among others.

C. Forest Policy in Developing and Transitioning Countries

As our program has grown we have increasingly focused on forest policy issues affecting countries with transitioning economies. Beginning in 2002, we worked with collaborators at the Rainforest Alliance, SUNY Buffalo, and the University of Tasmania to develop a detailed framework for assessing a broad range of social and ecological impacts of forest certification in countries at various stages of development. The framework was utilized by scholars in 16 developing countries to conduct systematic analyses of the emergence of forest certification in their respective countries. The results of this research were presented at a major symposium at Yale University in June 2004. An edited book including these case studies and regional analyses was recently released (July 2006) from the Yale School of Forestry and Envrionmental Studies Publication Series. Click here for more information.


A. Exploring industrial and forest owner support for market-based instruments

We devote considerable attention to understanding how support for forest certification is occurring among companies along the supply chain. While much attention has been placed on decisions made by forest owners and retailers, less attention has focused on secondary wood product manufacturers. Yet for certification to be effective, support from all steps of the supply chain must be better understood and addressed. We focus on identifying the bottlenecks that impede economic incentives along the supply chain, as well as how certification product "tracking" and "chain of custody" are facilitated. Work in this track seeks to understand the factors that lead forest owners, producers, wood processors and retailers to evaluate forest certification favorably, and to show preference for particular forest certification programs. Prof. Cashore is currently collaborating with Prof. Aseem Prakash (University of Washington), Prof. Erika Sasser (Duke University), and doctoral candidate Graeme Auld (Yale University) to explore the attitudes and approaches toward forest certification of 16 U.S. forest companies that own and manage forestlands.

B. Market Incentives

This research focus addresses the strength of market incentives, and the processes through which they are transmitted, or not transmitted, along the market's supply chain to forest companies and or landowners. Projects that fall under this topic are in their preliminary phases, and draw on ideas generated at our marketing conference on certification held in September of 2002. Professor Cashore is in discussions with collaborators at Auburn University , Oregon State, and the University of Gävle, Sweden to develop a study of actual consumer behavior regarding FSC certified forest products. We plan to expand our focus to examine the manufacturing sector's response to certification, and in particular, contract furniture (office furniture) manufacturers in the United States .


This research stream evaluates to what extent forest certification and other forest management policy instruments effect social and environmental change.

A. Evaluation Research

This research evaluates the impacts of forest certification on social welfare and the conservation of biological diversity.

This project involves the development of a metric for assessing the environmental and social impacts of wood versus other bio-based materials for the US Green Building Council¹s LEED certification system. The metric will incorporate wood and non-wood certification systems and full life-cycle analysis into the determination of net impacts. The project is being conducted in collaboration with Greg Norris. Dr. Norris has many professional affiliations, including his roles as Director of Sylvatica, Visiting Scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Program Manager for the United Nations¹ Environment Program¹s (UNEP) global Life Cycle Initiative.

A future large-scale project, still in the initial phases of development, is the collaborative design and implementation of a framework for monitoring certification impacts in key ecosystems worldwide. This project would involve a broad range of stakeholders in establishing accepted measures of environmental and social performance. The implementation of this monitoring system will not only foster policy learning across diverse interest groups but also enable the continual improvement of environmental and social standards at a pace acceptable to committed forest managers around the world.

B. Forest Management Changes

This research stream explores what forest management changes have occurred as a result of forest certification, and then assesses the impacts of these choices on the conservation of biological diversity and forest structure and function. For example, we have conducted studies examining the substantive changes that U.S. forestry operators have been required to make in order to meet FSC standards for responsible management. A recent project within this stream includes a preliminary study funded by the Kendall Foundation to assess the potential of FSC certification to restore and protect the ecological integrity of the Northern Appalachians region.