Philip Schleifer is Associate Professor of Transnational Governance at the Political Science Department at the University of Amsterdam. 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.
Philip's research agenda focuses on the politics and governance of sustainability in the global economy. His past and present projects investigate the effectiveness and transparency of voluntary standards in global value chains, the design of hybrid biofuel governance in the European Union, and the political economy of sustainable commodity production in emerging economies. Philip's reserach work has been supported by various grant-giving bodies, including EU COST, Amsterdam Institute of Social Science Research, and Amsterdam Centre for European Studies. Currently, he is co-PI of the interdiciplinary research project Free, Fair & Green? Governing Europe’s Trade Relations in a Changing Global Economic Order.
Philip's work has been published by high impact journals and academic publishers, including Review of International Political Economy, Regulation & Governance, Global Environmental Politics, Governance, Global Food Security, and Ecological Economics. Philip's new book Global Shifts: Business, Politics, and Deforestation in a Changing World Economy was published with MIT Press (2023).
Philip is a member of the UvA Political Economy and Transnational Governance (PETGOV) program group. Moreover, he is an associate of the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies (ACES), a research fellow of the Earth System Governance Project (ESG), a member of the Academic Advisory Council of the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards (UNFSS), and an associate of the Research Network Sustainable Global Supply Chains. 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.
Philip teaches courses at the intersection of global environmental politics, international political economy, and transnational governance. Recently taught courses include:
Transnational Governance - BA Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE), UvA
As gridlock paralyzes many intergovernmental forums, transnational actors (e.g., NGOs, multinational corporations, and city networks) play increasingly important roles in global governance. Long viewed by mainstream international relations scholars as too insignificant to be studied, today a wide array of non-state actors engages in transborder activism, private regulation, and new partnerships to provide public goods and services. This transnational turn has greatly increased the complexity of global governance in the twenty-first century. Introducing students to the theory, practice, and empirics of transnational governance, this course is structured in three parts: In the first part, 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 the second part, the course introduces students to key actors and issues in this field of study. Case studies are drawn from three policy areas in which transnational modes of governance are well-established: Human and social rights, development, and environmental sustainability. Students will learn about the opportunities and challenges of “governance without government” in these issue areas and explore implications for power, legitimacy, and effectiveness. In the third part of the course, we will assess the increasing complexity of global governance and explore whether and how it can be managed: Is the rise of transnational actors leading to ever more fragmentation or can non-state governance be harnessed to provide a pathway beyond gridlock?
Rethinking Governance: New Solutions for Our Hot and Crowded Planet - MA Political Science (Research Project), UvA
How effective and legitimate are the United Nations sustainable development partnerships? Can powerful corporations help put an end to tropical deforestation? What is the role of cities in the global climate regime? This research project is designed for students with an interest in questions of sustainability and sustainable development in a fast-changing changing global governance context. In response to institutional gridlock in many intergovernmental forums, a great variety of new modes of governance has emerged to address the plethora of sustainability and developmental challenges facing our hot and crowded planet. What are the origins, forms, and consequences of these arrangements? Are they effective and legitimate? Who controls them and whose interests do they really serve? In international relations, public policy, and international political economy, these and other questions have given rise to a vibrant and diverse research agenda. Students who have taken this research project in the past have, among other topics, studied the strategies of transnational advocacy campaigns, the design of global supply chain regulations, the effectiveness of sustainability certification, the legitimacy of multi-stakeholder initiatives, and power relationships within transnational city networks. The research projects supervised in this course are theory-driven, problem-oriented, and have a strong empirical-analytical focus, including qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.
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.
What global shifts in markets and power mean for the politics and governance of sustainability.
In recent years, major shifts in global markets from North to South have created a new geography of trade and consumption, particularly in the agricultural sector. How this shift affects the governance of sustainability, and thus the future of the planet, is the pressing topic Philip Schleifer takes up in this book. The processes of twenty-first-century globalization are fundamentally changing the politics and governance of commodity production, Schleifer argues, with profound implications for the environment in the food-producing countries of the Global South.
At the center of Schleifer's study are Brazil and Indonesia—two key sites of experimentation in new models of global environmental and commodity governance—where palm oil and soy supply chains have seen unprecedented degrees of private environmental governance in recent years. However, instead of transforming these industries, the diffusion of transnational sustainability standards has accompanied a worsening ecological crisis, with mounting evidence of increasingly strong links between deforestation and globalization in twenty-first-century agricultural trade. To uncover the causes of this governance failure, Schleifer develops a multi-level framework for analyzing how contemporary globalization is reconfiguring the political economies of such industries. The result is the first comprehensive analysis of the shift of global agricultural trade to the South and the deepening crisis of commodity-driven deforestation—and a complex and evolving picture of both the risks and opportunities for sustainability presented by this transformative shift.
“Theoretically innovative and empirically rich, Global Shifts charts how new configurations of power in the global economy are shaping the politics and governance of major agricultural supply chains, as well as their environmental consequences.” Jennifer Clapp, Canada Research Chair & Professor, School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo
“Through an innovative political economy lens, Philip Schleifer reveals the far-reaching consequences for tropical deforestation of shifting North-South relations and world agricultural markets. His leading-edge, incisive analysis is essential reading for improving global forest governance.” Peter Dauvergne, Professor of International Relations, University of British Columbia
“This book provides a bold, forensic account of the dated misconceptions that lead supply chain governance efforts to fail. Schleifer urges policymakers, academics, and practitioners to update their theories of change and provides important insights into how environmental governance must evolve to be successful in a changing world.” Genevieve LeBaron, Director and Professor, School of Public Policy, Simon Fraser University
“Global Shifts is a gem of a book—it brings to life the politics of sustainable markets, highlighting the pitfalls of current zero-deforestation regimes and proposing place-based governance of sustainability as a more inclusive alternative.” Stefano Ponte, Professor of International Political Economy, Copenhagen Business School
Philip has conributed to numerous policy studies and reports for international organizations, think tanks, and research organizations, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards, the International Trade Centre, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, and the Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
Towards a Smart Mix 2.0: Harnessing Regulatory Heterogeneity for Sustainable Global Supply Chains, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (Research Network on Sustainable Global Supply Chains)
This study explores the opportunities and challenges of harnessing regulatory heterogeneity for sustainable global supply chains. It advances an analytical perspective that is attuned to the political dimensions of "smart governance mixes”. In a case study of forest-risk supply chains (palm oil), it explores the evolving nature of “smart mix politics” in this supply chain setting.
Linking Voluntary Standards to Sustainable Development Goals, International Trade Centre, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, University of Amsterdam, German Development Institute, European University Institute
With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations has called on the private sector to contribute more to achieving the sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This report helps decision makers in the public and private sectors to understand where voluntary sustainability standards are best placed to contribute. It maps the linkages between these standards and each SDG goal, including its specific targets.
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.
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.
The report uncovers factors making environmental and social standards more producer-friendly. It shows how the institutional design of standards and their governance structure can make standards more accessible to producers through cost sharing, assistance and transparency, and how country-level characteristics affect the number of standards available. The findings presented in the report are based on the first econometric assessment of 181 voluntary sustainability standards sourced from ITC's Standards Map database.
This report examines the degree of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) fragmentation across nine key agricultural commodity sectors in the 10 largest producer countries and ways of increasing coordination between VSS. It uses data on geographical scope of certified or verified producers collected in the Standards Map database for each VSS and measures fragmentation in 90 country-product markets, using a requirement overlap index and process overlap index.