The Role of Transnational Private Standards in Environmental Governance

Transnational private standards (TPS) have emerged and expanded in the last 2 decades, governing production processes and supply chains across sectors and the globe. It is beyond doubt that TPS represent a growing and increasingly important governance tool. Environmental law is not only one of a number of similar fields, but a primary one, where transnational private regulation is being displayed and is becoming heavily rooted in private law and governance.

TPS encompass legal and extra-legal influences on governments, corporations and households by actors other than states or inter-governmental organisations. For the purposes of this study, they include (collective) standard-setting, certifications, supply chain agreements, voluntary agreements and other similar practices.

The reasons for their emergence are various. In some areas, TPS are a response to the cumbersome, slow or ineffective solutions of public governance and framed as an alternative to “traditional” international public law, such as treaty law. In other cases, private standards establish the tools and processes to meet the requirements of public norms, operating on a perception that they complement public law.


Overall, the implications of standards are not straightforward. On the one hand, there is a strong corporate demand for TPS. They create performance requirements related to the access to finance, internal business processes, membership of trade bodies, certification of products and services, and access to markets. They also provide opportunities for “operationalising” treaties and making them concrete. On the other hand, there are concerns about the transnational private standards’ exclusionary socio-economic effect in specific countries and between producers, the lack of transparency and accountability, and their legitimacy deficits. The dilemmas and gaps in knowledge relating to TPS become even more relevant in face of the increasing trend of clustering or harmonising collective standards.

This project looks at the reasons for the emergence of TPS in a little-explored area, and addresses the question of the interplay between the public and private law. It asks how to square the corporate need for concrete standards in order to implement environmental obligations with the international public law norms and the diversity of values and ecosystems. The ultimate question guiding the project is: In view of the most viable conceptualisation of the legal and governance model, what legal force should harmonised/coordinated transnational environmental private standards carry?

Implementation of the project

This postdoctoral project was led by Dr. Jerneja Penca. The project lasted for two years and was concluded in the summer of 2019. It was carried out primarily as the researcher’s individual research work, in close relation with stakeholders. First, the project leader leveraged the cooperation with researchers in similar substantive fields, notably fisheries, blue economy, plastic regulation, and scholars of transnational environmental law, through participation in networks, attendance at conferences and joint publications. Secondly, to ensure a spill-over of research onto teaching, the project work was interwoven with the postgraduate trainings in blue economy, and the organisation of other pedagogical activities at the EMUNI University or its partners. Finally, the project leader sought to cooperate in a dialogue with policy-makers at the national level and in regional fora, including the EU, UfM, EUSAIR, Bluemed and UN (Mediterranean).

Link to the project publications.

Vloga transnacionalnih zasebnih standardov v okoljskem upravljanju

Transnacionalni zasebni standardi (TZS) so se presenetljivo pojavili in bliskovito razširili v zadnjih dveh desetletjih. Urejajo proizvodne procese in dobavne verige v različnih sektorjih po vsem svetu. TZS nedvomno predstavljajo rastoče in vse bolj pomembno upravljalsko orodje. Okoljsko pravo ni le eno izmed, ampak primarno polje, kjer se izkazujejo TZS in je kot tako postalo močno zakoreninjeno v zasebnem pravu in zasebnem upravljanju.

TZS obsega pravne in druge normativne vplive na vlade, podjetja in gospodinjstva, oblikovane s strani akterjev, ki niso države ali mednarodne organizacije. Za namene te študije vključujejo (kolektivno) določanje standardov, certificiranje, sporazume v dobavnih verigah, prostovoljne sporazume in druge podobne prakse.

Razlogi za njihov nastanek so različni. Na nekaterih področjih so TZS odziv na okorne, počasne ali neučinkovite rešitve javnega upravljanja in so razumljene kot alternativa »tradicionalnemu« mednarodnemu javnemu pravu, ki obstaja v obliki mednarodnih pogodb. V drugih primerih, zasebni standardi določajo orodja in postopke, ki izpolnjujejo zahteve iz javnih norm, in tako delujejo na razumevanju, da javno pravo dopolnjujejo.

Nasplošno posledice vse večje uveljavitve standardov niso enostavne. Na eni strani obstaja močna potreba podjetij za obstoj standardov. Standardi ustvarjajo zahteve za delovanje, povezane z dostopom do finančnih sredstev, notranjimi poslovnimi procesi, članstvom v trgovinskih organih, certificiranjem izdelkov in storitev, in dostopom do trgov. Standardi zagotavljajo tudi priložnosti za »operacionalizacijo« mednarodnih pogodb in njihovo konkretizacijo. Po drugi strani pa obstajajo pomisleki glede zasebnih standardov zaradi njihovega izključevalnega družbeno-ekonomskega učinka v posameznih državah in med proizvajalci, pomanjkljive preglednosti in odgovornosti ter pomanjkanja njihove legitimnosti. Odpravljanje ugotovljenih dilem in vrzeli v znanju glede TZS postane še toliko bolj pomembno glede na trend združevanja, usklajevanja oz. harmonizacije standardov.

Ta projekt proučuje razloge za nastanek TZS na malo raziskanem področju, in naslavlja zlasti vprašanja prepleta med javnim in zasebnim pravom. V njem me zanima, kako združiti potrebo po konkretnih standardih za izvajanje okoljskih obveznosti na eni strani z normami iz mednarodnih pogodb in raznolikostjo vrednot in ekosistemov po drugi strani. Vodilno vprašanje v projektu je: Glede na najbolj prepričljivo konceptualizacijo pravnega in upravljalskega modela, kakšno pravno vrednost naj imajo harmonizirani/usklajeni transnacionalni okoljski standardi?

Realizacija projekta 

Ta podoktorski projekt je vodila dr. Jerneja Penca. Projekt je trajal dve leti, zaključil pa se je poleti 2019. Izvajal se je v obliki individualnega raziskovalnega delo v tesni povezavi z deležniki, kot sledi. Prvič, vodja projekta je sodelovala z raziskovalci na podobnih vsebinskih področjih, zlasti področju ribištva, modre ekonomije ter regulaciji plastike, in z akademiki s področja transnacionalnega okoljskega prava, s sodelovanjem v mrežah, udeležbo na konferencah in preko skupnih publikacij. Drugič, da bi zagotovili prenos raziskav v poučevanje, je bil projekt prepleten s podiplomskimi usposabljanji na področju modre ekonomije, in organizacijo drugih pedagoških dejavnosti na EMUNI univerzi ali njenih partnerjih. Nazadnje si je vodja projekta prizadevala za sodelovanje z odločevalci na nacionalni ravni in v regionalnih forumih, vključno z EU, UfM, EUSAIR, Bluemed in ZN (Sredozemlje).

Povezava na publikacije iz projekta.

Duration of the Project:

1st July 2017 - 30th June 2019 (24 months)

Trajanje projekta:

1. julij 2017 - 30. junij 2019 (24 mesecev)

All rights reserved, EMUNI 2019