Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Dr Constance McDermott


Research Groups


TEDxOxBridge 2015

Seeing the forests behind the label: Why standards are not enough | Dr Constance McDermott

Dr Constance McDermott

Associate Professor and Jackson Senior Research Fellow in Land Use and Environmental Change
Leader of the Ecosystems Governance Group


Constance McDermott chairs the ECI's Ecosystems Governance Group (formerly the Forest Governance Group).

Her research, described in detail on the Ecosystem Governance pages, addresses the linkages among diverse local, regional and global priorities for sustainable forest management. It examines both "new" and "old" institutions of forest governance, from market-based initiatives such as forest and carbon certification to sovereign state-based and traditional community-based approaches, to better understand how dynamics of trust and power shape environmental and social policies and facilitate or inhibit desired outcomes. Her methods range from locally focused case studies to large-scale comparative research examining cross-institutional and cross-boundary interactions.

McDermott's work at ECI and the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests includes an emphasis on the integration of forest governance into the global climate regime. Recent research directions include the examination of Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) initiatives, and the role of both pre-existing and new forest institutions for addressing REDD-related environmental and social mandates.

Before beginning at Oxford in April 2009, McDermott worked for five years at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies where she served as Associate Research Scientist and Program Director of the Program on Forest Policy and Governance. She has conducted research and applied work in multi-stakeholder processes, forest and green building certification, intergovernmental forest-related governance, and international development in North and Central America, South Asia, and globally.

Research Interests

Within the theme of comparative governmental and inter-governmental policy, McDermott addresses the effects of market globalization on domestic forest policy, and the conflicts and synergies between trade and conservation oriented objectives within inter-governmental processes. For example, McDermott is lead author of the book, Global Environmental Forest Policy, together with co-authors Professors Benjamin Cashore (Yale University) and Peter Kanowski (Australian National University). The book compares environmental forest policies in twenty countries worldwide, and serves as a launching point for research on the role of government regulation in addressing REDD-related climate objectives.

McDermott's work on trade-based initiatives includes the study of the impacts of wood products trade with the US and China on forests of the Amazon, Borneo, Chile, Congo, Mekong, and Russian Far East. Outputs from this work include a framework for establishing a "results-based" approach to prioritize the engagement of producers and traders in wood product sourcing initiatives.

The certification of forests and forest products, and related initiatives (for example, green building, forest carbon certification) are another focal point as new forms of non-state governance designed to balance stakeholder interests both "vertically" (i.e. from the local to global level) and "horizontally" (i.e. across diverse interest groups). McDermott's research in this area includes the study of trust and distrust among stakeholders in shaping certification standards and uptake. Outputs include the development of policy tools for evaluating the use of certified wood in green building.


  • Bernstein, S., Cashore, B., Eba’a Atyi, R., Maryudi, A., McGinley, K., Cadman, T., Gulbrandsen, L., Goehler, D., Hogel, K., Humphreys, D., Kant, S., Kozak, R., Levin, K., McDermott, C., Purdon, M., Scher, I., Stone, M.W., Tacconi, L. and Yasmi, Y. (2011) Examination of the influences of global forest governance arrangements at the domestic level. Chapter 7 in, Rayner, J., Buck, A., Katila, P. (ed.) Embracing complexity: Meeting the challenges of international forest governance. IUFRO, Vienna. Commissioned by Expert Panel on the International Forest Regime, The Collaborative Partnership on Forests.
  • Kanowski, P., McDermott, C. and Cashore, B. (2011) Implementing REDD+: lessons from analysis of forest governance. Environmental Science and Policy, 14(2): 111-117.
  • McDermott, C., Levin, K. and Cashore, B. (2011) Building the forest-climate bandwagon: REDD+ and the logic of problem amelioration. Global Environmental Politics, 11(3): 85-103.
  • McDermott, C.L., Humphreys, D., Wildburger, C., Wood, P., Marfo, E., Pacheco, P. and Yasmi, Y. (2011) Mapping the core actors and issues defining international forest governance. Chapter 2 in, Rayner, J., Buck, A. and P. Katila (eds.) Embracing Complexity: Meeting the challenges of international forest governance. A global assessment report. Global Forest Expert Panel on the International Forest Regime. IUFRO World Series Volume 28, Vienna. pp. 19-36.
  • Auld, G., Gulbrandsen, L.H. and McDermott, C.L. (2008) Certification schemes and the impacts on forests and forestry. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 33: 187-211.
  • Levin, K., McDermott, C. and Cashore, B. (2008) The climate regime as global forest governance: can reduced emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiatives pass a 'dual effectiveness' test? International Forestry Review, 10(3): 538-549.
  • McDermott, C., Irland, L., Cashore, B., Milakovsky, B., Rebelo, C. and Gordon, L. (2008) Eight reports on the wood trade, and trade-based conservation strategies focused on six eco-regions (Amazon, Chile, Amur / Heilongjiang, Mekong, Congo, Borneo), China, and the US. WWF-US, Washington DC, USA.
  • McDermott, C.L. and Cashore, B. (2008) Summary Report: Assessing USGBCs forest certification policy options. Yale Program on Forest Policy and Governance
  • Hansen, E., Fletcher, R., Cashore, B., McDermott, C. and others (2006) Forest Certification in North America..
  • McDermott, C.L. and Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry (2006) FSC in the northern Appalachians: a regional and sub-regional analysis of forest stewardship council certification as a tool for forest conservation. Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry.
  • Stennes, B., Wang, S., Luján Alvarez, C., Wilson, B. and McDermott, C. (2005) Forestry in North America. Forests in the Global Balance – Changing Paradigms IUFRO, Vienna.
  • Cashore, B. and McDermott, C. (2004) Global Environmental Forest Policies: Canada as a constant case comparison of select forest practice regulations. International Forest Resources, Victoria, BC.
  • McDermott, C.L. (2003) Personal Trust and Trust in Abstract Systems: A study of Forest Stewardship Council-accredited forest certification in British Columbia. University of British Columbia, Vancouver. PhD Thesis.
  • McDermott, C.L. and Hoberg, G. (2003) From State to Market: Forest Certification in Canada and the U.S. In, Beckley, T., Shindler, B. and Finley, M.C. (eds.) Two Paths Toward Sustainable Forests: Public Values in Canada and the United States. OSU Press, Corvallis.