5d. Sustainable Value Chains and trade

Track chairs:

Walter J.V. Vermeulen. Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands. w.j.v.vermeulen@uu.nl

Valerie Nelson. Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, London, UK. valairn@ntlworld.com

Ximena Rueda. Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia. x.rueda@uniandes.edu.co

Goals and objectives of the track

Market-based mechanisms for social and environmental governance are on the rise: from certification, to direct procurement, to distribution channels involving the base of the pyramid, companies are engaging in addressing the most pressing societal and environmental issues through their value chains.

These practices of self-governance originally relied upon the organizing capacities, field experience and collaborative efforts of front-runner companies and globally acting NGOs, while governments have been on the side-line (Vermeulen and Kok, 2012). More recently new forms of concerted market-NGO-governments strategies have been successfully implemented. Some companies and relevant actors are currently looking beyond standards to other kinds of interventions that lead to community empowerment, participatory agreements, new institutions for forest production, direct sourcing trading, corporate own brand initiatives and Public-Private Partnerships for more intensive programming and engagement with a wider set of stakeholders, often in a landscape area (Nelson et al, 2018; Nelson and Philips 2018). Companies are also redefining their relationship with governments to produce better outcomes and transformations within their industries (Lambin et al. 2014). These recent innovations have recently been termed ‘global market transitions' as they relate to new governance relationships and efforts to address systemic change in markets (Nelson et al, 2017). Research is needed which teases out these new forms of governance of landscape and value chains, the role of the private sector, multi-stakeholder processes, issues of land rights, and the effectiveness of new sustainable business and investment models in catalyzing sustainable land-based development.

Key questions arise as to how capable these global market transitions are in helping modern societies overcome the challenges of climate change, biodiversity collapse, and extreme
poverty. Are voluntary sustainability standards and other associated corporate responses to sustainability fit for the purpose of achieving a circular and fair global economy? What further innovations or scaling up is needed, or are there are alternative approaches which would be more effective?

To understand the effectiveness of voluntary standards and other sustainability innovations in global supply chains, there is a need for more learning and impact assessment. Despite an increase in the evidence base, there still remain many gaps, because of the diversity of locations in which VSS are being adopted and the rapid expansion into new products, and also due to the identification of new sustainability issues requiring attention, such as gender, landscape issues, etc. Further, learning and impact studies need to assess which kinds of smart governance mixes and collaborative approaches are effective under what conditions, and whether they too have limits. The development of a form of ‘meta'-governance, including new approaches by governments, combining public policy strategies with the demonstrated virtues of self-governance is increasingly seen by the community of practice, researchers and policy-makers as being the way forwards. Critical research evidence and insights are needed to understand whether such a meta-governance system can evolve and be effective in securing social and environmental sustainability.

We welcome any research or critical review paper addressing one or more of the issues suggested here.


You may submit your abstract by visiting the Ex Ordo abstract submission system (you will be required to setup an account first): http://isdrs2018.exordo.com

Deadline for abstracts:  30 November 2017 7 January 2018

References used:

Nelson, V., X. Rueda, W.J.V. Vermeulen (2018) Challenges and Opportunities for the Sustainability Transition in Global Trade (introduction) Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 27, (forthcoming)

Nelson, V., D. Phillips (2018) Sector, landscape or rural transformations? Exploring the limits and potential of agricultural sustainability initiatives through a cocoa case study, Business Strategy and the Environment, Vol. 27, (forthcoming)

Lambin, E. F., Meyfroidt, P., Rueda, X., Blackman, A., Börner, J., Cerutti, P.O. & Walker, N. F. (2014). Effectiveness and synergies of policy instruments for land use governance in tropical regions. Global Environmental Change, 28, 129-140.

Vermeulen, W. J. V., & Kok, M. T. J. (2012). Government interventions in sustainable supply chain governance: Experience in Dutch front-running cases. Ecological economics, 83, 183-196.