Handbooks on Globalisation series
Edited by Guy M. Robinson and Doris A. Carson
Chapter 13: Private agri-food governance and the challenges for sustainability
In the past few decades, transnational corporations (TNCs) have become pivotal actors in agri-food governance of sustainable development. Their remarkable growth in both number and size as well as their global reach have made them particularly attractive partners for governments and civil society organisations aiming to foster environmental and social goals by harnessing market forces. In this context, the development of standards and certification schemes that prescribe and monitor environmental and socially responsible behaviour in agri-food supply chains increasingly involves the participation of TNCs. While TNC involvement in sustainable agri-food governance has the potential to achieve great benefits by transforming the market from within, it might also come at a cost. Accordingly, this contribution explores the effects of TNC endorsement of private agri-food sustainability initiatives. Adopting a critical perspective, this contribution argues that while some positive consequences can be identified, for example, a larger penetration of the mainstream market, TNC involvement in agri-food governance will likely also lead to the development of less stringent, comprehensive and inclusive standards. Moreover, the mechanisms with which sustainable development objectives are constituted and implemented by TNCs risk changing the fundamental principles and ideas of sustainable development as equitable and participatory governance. The chapter illustrates its argument with an examination of TNC involvement in a select number of initiatives.
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