Bottom-up approaches to private voluntary standards for sustainability in South African agriculture: Improving environmental governance using social learning
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This Master thesis looks at bottom-up initiatives for the improvement of private voluntary standards for sustainability. Due to several reasons the use of sustainability standards has increased rapidly and they now exist in many different forms. Standards are an important tool for environmental governance and are seen as the main mechanism to make our agricultural products more sustainable. However the top-down approaches seem to fail to address the local needs and the impacts on the resilience of ecosystems and sustainability in general are ambiguous. To answer this concern new locally oriented bottom-up initiatives are emerging. Through a case study research such initiatives are evaluated according to a good governance framework and through the use of theories on social learning. Social learning looks at how social interactions influence behavior and whether certain norms and values can become situated in a wider social unit. It thus looks at the possibility to realize a transition towards sustainable agriculture that goes further than incremental changes. Many successful components of the initiatives seem to correspond with the literature and thus support a bottom-up approach. However there is also still much room for improvement. The analysis of different initiatives shows how each one makes a contribution to the development by addressing certain issues, but also shows the need for a better integration and exchange of information.