Challenges in incorporating the social dimension in a transnational sustainability project. The case of the FSC
School of Life Sciences Södertörn University Huddinge, Sweden
This paper aims at explaining the challenges involved in incorporating social sustainability goals, principles, and criteria in transnational sustainability projects through a case study of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is a multi-stakeholder organization that sets standards and policies for sustainable forestry, on the transnational, national, and regional level. This paper focuses on the organization, standard-setting, and policy-making of the FSC at the transnational level. The FSC is chosen as a crucial case. Several scholars have portrayed the FSC as exemplary in its multi-stakeholder ambitions and in developing novel transnational governance for substantiality with its far-reaching attempt to combine and balance environmental, social and economic objectives and standards. Despite these grand ambitions, critical challenges are observed and it is possible to infer that they are not unique to this particular case.
Using organizational, power, and framing perspectives, the paper makes an analysis of the FSC´s formal, organizational structure, including the categorisation and representation of "social" stakeholders in relation to "economic" and "environmental" stakeholders. The extent to which FSC is able to assist the participation and influence of "social" stakeholders is also investigated. The paper concludes that three complicating factors are essential to take into account for understanding the challenges involved in such kind of organizational arrangement that the FSC represents: Time; the fact that this kind of sustainability project is a permanent, regular activity, which creates both material and ideological obstacles for participation. The transnational scale; which creates organizing and framing obstacles particularly for "social" actor categories, many of which are more entangled in a "local" or "national" outlook and context. Complexity, i.e. an over time increasingly complex organizational arrangement makes it even more difficult for "weak" stakeholders to have an overview and effective impact on the organization.