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Zdravka Tzankova

Research Associate Professor of Sociology
Senior Lecturer in Sociology

What are the conservation and democratic impacts of eco-labeling, environmental certification, and related schemes for private, market-driven environmental regulation?

Much of my recent work analyzes the performance and potential of disruptive regulatory approaches to complex and change-resistant socio-ecological problems. My study of disruptive policy strategies is presently centered along two distinct axes:

  1. The use and potential of strategic, unusual litigation deployed as a context-shifting step within larger efforts to advance policy change in the face of political and institutional obstacles
  2. The performance and potential of private, market-based environmental regulation

Deeply familiar and increasingly ubiquitous, eco-labels, green certification schemes, corporate targeting by NGOs, and CSR commitments speak to the rise of private, market-based regulation of industry environmental performance.

My work investigates the dynamics, performance, and broader implications of such private regulation through an empirical focus on the many market-based governance initiatives targeted at the agri-food sector. Many such initiatives originate as strategic NGO attempts to improve industry performance by complementing deficient public regulation. A number of sociologists and political economists, however, theorize that private regulation is poised to undermine the very public regulatory governance it aims to augment.

My work aims to generate empirically grounded understanding of the actual and possible interactions between private, market-based regulation and public regulatory governance through

- Analyzing the dynamics and implications of specific campaigns for market-driven private regulation, such as Greenpeace’s Carting Away the Oceans campaign and the Consumer Union’s Meat without Drugs campaign.

- Evaluating the collective conservation and regulatory impacts of a transnational NGO movement that works through major Western markets to mobilize market power and private authority within agri-food supply chains, and translate such power and authority into regulatory pressure for better environmental and resource practices in fisheries, agriculture, and aquaculture.