International standards certification, institutional voids and exports from developing country firms

Micheline Goedhuys & Leo Sleuwaegen


This paper analyses the impact of International Standards Certification (ISC) on the export participation and the scale of exports of firms based in 89 developing or transition countries. We conceptualise ISC as an endogenous institutional advantage, which bridges institutional voids in the country and helps firms to export. The empirical results show that certified firms are more likely to export, and to export on a larger scale. The impact of ISC runs through two channels: productivity and transaction cost economies. We show that certification plays an important role in bringing down transaction costs in international markets, while also maintaining and raising efficiency. This finding is reinforced by additional evidence, suggesting that ISC matters more for the export participation of domestic firms than for foreign firms and is of greater importance for firms based in countries characterised by severe institutional voids.

Keywords: certification, export performance, institutional voids, transaction costs

JEL Classification: D23, D24, O12, O17, O33