This article begins by situating forest certification within a broader set of forest governance institutions and innovations. It then examines how certification has been practiced to date, before investigating whether, when, and how it has achieved its intended impacts. Doing so reveals a number of gaps in existing knowledge that stem from narrow conceptualizations of impacts, limitations of available data, and epistemological challenges inherent to particular research designs. As a corrective, we propose a three pronged approach to improving impacts research that involves collecting better data, expanding the indicators under observation, and affording a greater role to concept and theory building that draws on mixed-method research to highlight slow-moving, multi-level, historical processes that result in important, but often under-analyzed, impacts.

The article is available here.