Despite the proliferation of private regulatory regimes as instruments for global governance, we know little about the operations or effectiveness of these regimes at the national level. This is particularly true in developing countries where these programs are expected to have their greatest impact. This paper examines why it is that in two nations that share several properties believed to support private forms of environmental regulation, the effectiveness of one prominent global program, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), should vary so dramatically. Findings indicate that differences in three variables that often support successful private regulation—domestic and foreign market demand, the influence of transnational actors, and state endorsement—do not adequately account for this variation. Instead, factors that promote the supply of local programs have strongly influenced the effectiveness of the FSC in these nations, particularly the social resources and political strategies utilized by program administrators.

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Author notes

Ralph Espach is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California at Berkeley and the recipient of a Joseph L. Fisher Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from Resources for the Future. His research focuses on the politics of global environmental standards regimes and their impact on industries in developing states, particularly in the Southern Cone. He is the co-editor (with Vinod K. Aggarwal and Joseph S. Tulchin) of The Strategic Dynamics of Latin American Trade (2004), and (with Joseph S. Tulchin) of Latin America in the International System (2001).

I am indebted to the scores of individuals in Argentina and Brazil who generously shared with me their time and knowledge, often with kindness as well. I wish to thank especially Pablo Yapura of the Fundación Vida Silvestre, Claudia Peirano of the Asociación Forestal Argentina, and Gerardo Alonso Schwarz of the Fundación Mediterránea in Argentina, and in Brazil Lineu Siqueira Jr. at the Instituto de Manejo e Certificação Florestal e Agrícola (IMAFLORA). I also wish to thank Jane Lister at the University of British Columbia and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Comments are welcome at respach@berkeley.edu.