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dr. P. (Philip) Schleifer

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Photographer: Dirk Gillissen

Visiting address
  • Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
  • Room number:B8.21
Postal address
  • Postbus 15578
    1001 NB Amsterdam
Contact details
  • Profile

    Philip Schleifer is Associate Professor of Transnational Governance at the Political Science Department at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Previously to his appointment at the UvA, he was a Max Weber Fellow and a Jean Monnet Fellow at the European University Institute. Philip held visiting positions at Duke University and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. He holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

    Areas of specialization

    • Transnational environmental governance
    • International trade and sustainable development
    • Global political economy of natural resources
    • Global value chains and CSR

    Philip's resarch agenda focuses on the politics and institutional dimensions of transnational governance, with a focus on sustainable development, trade, and production. His past and present projects investigate the effectiveness and transparency of voluntary standards in global value chains, the design of hybrid governance in the European Union, and the political economy of natural resource governance in the Global South. His work has been published in high impact journals, including Review of International Political Economy, Regulation & Governance, Global Environmental Politics, Governance, Globalizations, and Development Policy Review.

    At UvA, Philip sits on the management board of the Political Economy and Transnational Governance (PETGOV) program group. He is an associate of the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES), a research fellow of the Earth System Governance Project (ESG), and a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS). His other activities include advisory and policy work for international organizations, civil society organizations, and governments. This includes the International Trade Centre,  the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance, and the Dutch Government.

  • Teaching

    Courses 2018-19

    Transnational Governance - BA Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE), UvA

    This course introduces students to the diverse and dynamic field of transnational governance. Its main objectives are threefold. First, students will learn about the history and theory of transnational relations. We will discuss the intellectual development of the field and consider different explanations of the rise and institutionalization of transnational governance. In addition, we will discuss how the shift from government to governance challenges our thinking about fundamental political concepts, such as legitimacy, power, and effectiveness. Second, the course introduces students to key actors and issues in transnational governance – in particular, but not exclusively, its private variety. Topics covered during the course include: the governance of sustainability in global supply chains, the provision of health services in areas of limited statehood, the effectiveness of human rights advocacy, and transnational security governance. Throughout the course guest speakers from politics, business, and civil society will join and enrich our discussions. A third objective of the course is to train students’ writing and debating skills through several hands-on assignments, including a guided speech-writing exercise, co-organized with the speech-writing service of the EU Commission.


    Global Sustainability Politics - MA Political Science (Research Project), UvA

    This course is designed for students with an interest in global sustainability politics broadly defined. With a focus on (state and non-state) institutions, its main objective is to instruct students to develop and carry out their own research projects. Institutions of relevance to this course include: International environmental regimes (e.g., the global climate regime, the SDGs), Corporate Social Responsibility (e.g., Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan), multi-stakeholder governance (e.g., Forest Stewardship Council, Fairtrade Labelling Organization), environmental NGOs (Greenpeace, WWF), transnational city networks (e.g., C40 cities), and public-private partnerships (e.g., Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership). In the first part of the course, students will learn about key concepts and perspectives to think about and analyse institutions of environmental governance. Possible research themes include the effectiveness, legitimacy, power dynamics, and increasing complexity of transnational governance. The second part of the course focuses on issues of research design. Step-by-step students will develop their research proposals in preparation of the empirical analysis and the writing-up of their dissertations. In the final part of the course, students will work individually on their projects. In this phase, structured feedback is provided during presentations at workshops and during individual meetings with the course instructor.


    Transnational Regulation, Voluntary Standards, and Trade - Executive Training Seminar, School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute 

    This executive training provides a comprehensive and practical discussion of standard setting in a rapidly changing global regulatory environment. With a focus on transnational trade and production, participants learn about the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) rules on product standards, and the work of private standard setting bodies such as the International Standardization Organization (ISO). The trainers then focus on the highly dynamic field of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). Prominent examples are the Forest Stewardship Council, Fairtrade International, and the Rainforest Alliance. These voluntary initiatives set standards for sustainable production and often operate certification programs to verify compliance in global value chains. Initiated by NGOs, firms, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, the stated goal of VSS is to create win-win situations by reconciling environmental, social, and economic policy objectives. However, the potential of VSS to deliver on these objectives remains uncertain and contested. Particularly, the effectiveness of VSS and their impact on trade and development remains subject to much debate and controversy.

  • Book project

    Governing Global Commodities: New Modes of Governance and the Politics of Sustainable Production and Trade

    Fuelled by economic globalization, industrial agriculture has converted millions of hectares of forests into soybean fields, cattle ranches, and oil palm plantations. These large-scale land use changes in the tropics are a major contributor to the world’s climate crisis, but surprisingly scholarship on global environmental politics has largely neglected the issue. By analysing the design and effectiveness of transnational commodity governance, my book project sets out to address this gap. In the absence of a coherent intergovernmental regime, corporate codes of conduct, buyer-driven moratoria, and multi-stakeholder certification programs have emerged as dominant modes of governance in this policy domain. And while scholars have argued that some of the most powerful governance systems are now located in the private sphere, the transnational movement to eliminate deforestation from global supply chains has had limited impact on the ground. In investigating this governance failure, the book’s innovative approach combines backward and forward reasoning. Based on over 100 interviews and field work in key producer and consumer countries, I employ cross-case comparison and in-depth process tracing to gain analytical leverage. Through this I show how, in a fast-changing political economy context, private governance mechanisms are failing to address some of the most destructive dynamics of agricultural commodity production and trade. As part of the book's forward looking research agenda, I explore new pathways to strengthen the emerging regime complex for forest risk commodities. Drawing lessons from a decade of hybrid governance in biofuels, public procurement, and illegal logging, I investigate the potential of the European Union to “orchestrate” more productive public-private interactions in transnational commodity governance. At the sub-state level, I examine the governance experiments of local authorities and civil society in Brazil and Indonesia. Going beyond the top-down logic of supply chain initiatives, these jurisdictional programs promise a local, more horizontal, and holistic approach to governing commodity production in the Global South.

    This project is supported by funding from the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES) and the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR).

  • Policy

    3rd UNFSS Flagship Report (2018)

    United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards

    The 3rd Flagship Report of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) examines the impact of voluntary sustainality standards (VSS) on sustainable development, trade opportunities, and market access in developing countries. 


    Social and Environmental Standards - From Fragmentation to Coordination (2017)

    International Trade Centre

    This report  is the second of a series that goes from identifying social and environmental standards to outlining markets that are most fragmented. It offers recommendations for coordination for standard-setting organizations and policymakers.


    Social and Environmental Standards - Contributing to More Sustainable Value Chains (2016)

    International Trade Centre

    The increase in consumer demand for sustainable trade has given rise to a growing array of social and environmental standards. This report shows that such standards can be made more accessible to producers through cost-sharing, technical assistance and transparency and how country-level characteristics affect the presence and adoption of standards.


    The Global Climate Legislation Study (2015)

    Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE

    The study covers national laws and policies directly related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, passed before 1stJanuary 2015. It covers 33 developed and 66 developing countries; 32 Annex-I and 67 non-Annex-I countries. Taken together, the study countries produce 93 per cent of world emissions, including 46 of the world’s top 50 emitters. They are home to 90 per cent of the world’s forests. 

  • Publications



    • Fiorini, M., Hoekman, B., Jansen, M., Schleifer, P., Solleder, O., Taimasova, R., & Wozniak, J. (2019). Institutional Design of Voluntary Sustainability Standard Systems: Evidence from a New Database. Development Policy Review, 37(S2), O193-O212. [details]
    • Schleifer, P. (2019). Varieties of multi-stakeholder governance: selecting legitimation strategies in transnational sustainability politics. Globalizations, 16(1), 50-66. [details]
    • Schleifer, P., Fiorini, M., & Auld, G. (2019). Transparency in Transnational Governance: The Determinants of Information Disclosure of Voluntary Sustainability Programs. Regulation & Governance, 13(4), 488-506. [details]
    • Schleifer, P., Fiorini, M., & Fransen, L. (2019). Missing the Bigger Picture: A Population-level Analysis of Transnational Private Governance Organizations Active in the Global South. Ecological Economics, 164, [106362]. [details]


    • Bäckstrand, K., Zelli, F., & Schleifer, P. (2018). The Legitimacy and Accountability in Polycentric Climate Governance. In A. Jordan, D. Huitema, H. van Asselt, & J. Forster (Eds.), Governing Climate Change: Policentricity in Action (pp. 338-356). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [details]
    • Fransen, L., Schalk, J., Kok, M., Voora, V., Potts, J., Joosten, M., ... Auld, G. (2018). Biodiversity Protection through Networks of Voluntary Sustainability Standard Organizations? Sustainability, 10(12), [4379]. [details]
    • Schleifer, P., & Sun, Y. (2018). Emerging markets and private governance: the political economy of sustainable palm oil in China and India. Review of International Political Economy, 25(2), 190-214. [details]




    • Kringler-Vidra, R., & Schleifer, P. (2014). Convergence More or Less: Why Do Practices Vary as They Diffuse? International Studies Review, 16(2), 264–274.


    • Schleifer, P. (2013). Orchestrating sustainability: The case of European Union biofuel governance. Regulation & Governance, 7(4), 533–546.


    • Liese, A., & Schleifer, P. (2012). Internationale Arbeitsorganisation. In K. Freistein, & J. Leininger (Eds.), Handbuch Internationale Organisationen: Theoretische Grundlagen und Akteure (pp. 135-144). Oldenbourg Verlag.


    • Schleifer, P. (2009). How to Make Better Factories? Explaining Variance in Labour Standard Compliance across Asia’s Garment Economies. Grin Verlag.


    • Fiorini, M., Schleifer, P., & Taimasova, R. (2017). Social and Environmental Standards: From Fragmentation to Coordination. Geneva: International Trade Centre. [details]


    • Fiorini, M., Schleifer, P., Solleder, O., Taimasova, R., Jansen, M., Wozniak, J., & Hoekman, B. M. (2016). Social and Environmental Standards: Contributing to More Sustainable Value Chains. Geneva: International Trade Centre. [details]


    • Frankhauser, S., Nachmany, M., Schleifer, P., & et al. (2015). Global Climate Legislation Study (5th edition). Grantham Research Institute.


    • Frankhauser, S., Nachmany, M., Schleifer, P., & et al. (2014). Globe Climate Legislation Study (4th edition). GLOBE International.




    • Hoekman, B., Schleifer, P., Fiorini, M., Fransen, L., & Gjaltema, J. (2018). VSS, Trade and Sustainable Development. In S. Fernandez de Cordoba, & B. Onguglo (Eds.), Voluntary Sustainability Standards, Trade and Sustainable Development: 3rd Flagship Report of the united Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS) (pp. 1-37). United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards. [details]




    • Schleifer, P. (2014). Whose rules? The institutional diffusion and variation of private participatory governance.


    • Schleifer, P., Fiorini, M., & Auld, G. (2017). Transparency in Transnational Sustainability Governance: A Multivariate Analysis of Regulatory Standard-Setting Programs. (EUI Working Papers; No. RSCAS 2017/16). Badia Fiesolana: Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute. [details]


    • Fiorini, M., Hoekman, B., Jansen, M., Schleifer, P., Solleder, O., Taimasova, R., & Wozniak, J. (2016). Exploring Voluntary Sustainability Standards Using ITC Standards Map: On the Accessibility of Voluntary Sustainability Standards for Suppliers. (ITC Working Paper Series; No. WP-04-2016.E). International Trade Centre. [details]


    • Bloomfield, M., & Schleifer, P. (2015). When Institutions Fail: Legitimacy, (De)legitimation and the Failure of Private Governance Systems. EUI Working Papers, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies 2015/36.
    • Schleifer, P. (2015). Creating Legitimacy for Private Rules: Explaining the Choice of Legitimation Strategies in Transnational Non-State Governance. EUI Working Papers, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies 2015/62.
    • Schleifer, P. (2015). Transnational Sustainability Governance and the Global South: A Comparative Study of Producer Support in Brazil. EUI Working Papers, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies 2015/13.


    • Schleifer, P. (2014). Let’s Bargain! Setting Standards for Sustainable Biofuels. (pp. 21). (EUI working paper. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies research paper ; No. 2014/124). San Domenico di Fiesole: European University Institute.


    • Schleifer, P. (2010). Only Strategic Action? Private Governance in the Global Sportswear Industry. Papers on International Political Economy, Center for International Political Economy, Free University Berlin.
    This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library or the Pure staff of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.
  • Ancillary activities
    • No ancillary activities