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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2018 / Do private coffee standards ‘walk the talk’ in improving socio-economic and environmental sustainability?

Koen Vanderhaegen, Kevin T Akoyib, Wouter Dekoninck, Rudy Jocqué, Bart Muys, Bruno Verbist, and Miet Maertens (2018)

Do private coffee standards ‘walk the talk’ in improving socio-economic and environmental sustainability?

Global Environmental Change, 51(2018):1-9.

Private sustainability standards cover an increasingly large production area and involve an increasing number of farmers worldwide. They raise expectations among consumers about the economic, ethical and environmental implications of food production and trade; and attract donor funding to certification schemes. The sustainability impact of standards remains unclear as research focuses on either economic or environmental implications. We analyze both the socio-economic and environmental impacts of coffee standards in Uganda and show that these are not in line with expectations created towards consumers. We find that standards improve either productivity and farm incomes or biodiversity and carbon storage but fail to eliminate trade-offs between socioeconomic and environmental outcomes, even when combined in multiple certification. Our analysis is based on a unique combination of economic survey data and ecological field inventory data from a sample of certified and noncertified coffee farms. Our findings are relevant for farmers, food companies, policy-makers, donors and consumers. They imply that combining different standards in multiple certification is counterproductive; that the design of standards could improve to mitigate observed trade-offs between economic and environmental outcomes; and that this requires increased productivity within ecological boundaries, rather than a price premium and added control mechanisms through multiple certification
RBINS Publication(s), Peer Review, PDF available, RBINS Collection(s)
Food standards, Private food standards, Coffee certification, Sustainability, Sustainable agriculture, Sustainable food production, Sustainable food consumption, Biodiversity, Carbon storage, Agricultural productivity, Poverty, Rural development, Africa
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.04.014