Creation of an entrepreneurial initiative made up of women, for the propagation of Arabica F1 hybrid coffee plants in Nicaragua
28 February 2020

Selling Sustainability Short? The private governance of labor and the environment in the coffee sector

Can private standards bring about more sustainable production practices? This question is of interest to conscientious consumers, academics studying the effectiveness of private regulation, and corporate social responsibility practitioners alike. My book provides an answer by combining an impact evaluation of 1,900 farmers with rich qualitative evidence from the coffee sectors of Honduras, Colombia and Costa Rica. Identifying an institutional design dilemma that private sustainability standards encounter as they scale up, this book shows how this dilemma plays out in the coffee industry. It highlights how the erosion of price premiums and the adaptation to buyers’ preferences have curtailed standards’ effectiveness in promoting sustainable practices that create economic opportunity costs for farmers, such as agroforestry or agroecology. It also provides a voice for coffee producers and value chain members to explain why the current system is failing in its mission to provide environmental, social, and economic co-benefits, and what changes are necessary to do better.

‘Selling Sustainability Short?’ has been called “a pathbreaking book” (Peter Dauvergne, UBC) that “makes numerous contributions to scholarly understanding of regulatory governance” (Colin Provost, University College London) and “significantly raises the bar for research on private regulation” (Tim Bartley, Washington University in St. Louis), as well as “one of the most important books on sustainability governance of the past decade, and the best book on coffee I have read in a very long time” (Stefano Ponte, Copenhagen Business School). For a full list of endorsements from other scholars including Frank Biermann, Ken Abbott, Jorge Rivera, Hamish van der Ven and Ben Cashore

Selling Sustainability Short? is now out (in hardcover or E-book format) with Cambridge University Press (in Europe and the UK; June 18th in the US/Canada).”

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