Comparing apples and oranges The role of private standards in fostering sustainability objectives in the fruit and vegetable sector.
Basten, P. van
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Abstract Certification schemes are increasingly adopted as a form of private governance in order to achieve sustainability objectives in the environmental, economic and social sphere. Private standards including certification have emerged in the fruit and vegetables sector as well. However, research into the effectiveness of private standards for fruit and vegetables is limited. This research therefore contributes to the scientific literature by examining the extent to which private international standards for fruit and vegetables can be effective in the fostering of sustainability objectives. Triangulation including systematic literature review, expert consultation and content analysis has been used to explore the conditions for effective governance of sustainable fruit and vegetable production and to examine the extent to which these conditions are met by the selected standards for analysis. The four private standards chosen for analysis are Global G.A.P., Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade and Fair for Life. First of all, the results show that important conditions for the evaluation of effectiveness are (i) problem structure (ii) stringency (iii) audit quality (iv) access to decision-making process (v) uptake and (vi) capacity building measures. Besides, experts attach great value to the public accessibility of the audit reports and set little store on the prior existence of public regulation. The findings furthermore demonstrate high quality of the audit of the four organisations, stringent standards and inclusion of capacity building measures. Shortcomings can for one thing be found in access to decision-making processes, which are overall rather low due to a large orientation on Northern and business actors. Secondly, uptake of the selected standards is rather low and shows the inclusion of mainly large farms in developed countries. The exclusion of small-scale farmers reveals a main caveat for the organisations, whereas capacity building measures could contribute to the alleviation of this problem. Additional research into this relationship could increase the effectiveness of private standards in the future. For now, the private standards for fruit and vegetables show promising potential for fostering sustainability objectives, whereas research into the direct effects of private standards can provide an ultimate assessment about the effectiveness of private standards.