Market-based non-state governance arrangements, many examples of which are seen in the environmental field, require the active approval of a broad group of stakeholders. This paper makes the theoretical argument that credibility is a key issue in the establishment of such arrangements, and examines empirically the effort to develop a trustworthy eco-labelling scheme for seafood in Sweden. Many policy actors view eco-labelling as a particularly credible instrument that consumers and businesspeople can use to demonstrate environmentally friendly behaviour. But establishing credibility is complicated, especially if the issues are controversial and if there is mistrust among the groups. This paper analyses the challenges involved in practising six standard-setting ideals, the fulfilment of which is seen to establish credibility: inclusiveness, independence, auditability, scientific validity, global applicability and the balancing of feasibility versus environmental stringency. The ideals are subjects of framing, debating, power struggles and negotiation; and are dependent upon context, situational and historical factors. The assumed positive relationship between ideals and credibility is complicated because of the challenges involved in practising the ideals. This article draws upon the literature on non-state authority, governance and standardization.
2006. Vol. 8, no 2, 135-158 p.