Green Capital Accumulation: Sustainability Governance in a World of Global Value Chains

Authors: Stefano Ponte*, Copenhagen Business School
Topics: Economic Geography, Development, Environment
Keywords: global value chains, sustainability, governance, capital
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 6:20 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The management of environmental concerns has become a key aspect of how lead firms in GVCs include and exclude suppliers from their operations. This is reshaping (dis)articulation dynamics in GVCs: (1) some products are increasingly sourced from locations and actors that can deliver sustainability certifications in larger volumes and at lower cost, or with lower material and energy use – to the expense of other locations and actors; (2) the need to document sources and processes of environmental compliance is bringing into play new technologies, such as traceability, sustainability auditing, and new metrics and assessment instruments; and (3) these technologies are leveraged by lead firms to obtain more information and extract value from suppliers.

Empirically, the paper shows how the extra cost of sustainability compliance and its related risks are being pushed upstream towards producers, thus excluding smaller and less organized actors – especially in the global South. Under the mantle of achieving sustainability, lead firms in GVCs exert ‘green capital accumulation’ – extracting more demands and operating a cost squeeze on from their suppliers. Methodologically, the paper reflects on the necessary bricolage involved in finding common ground from research projects that had different designs and objectives. Theoretically, it pushes critical GVC work to further examine the mutual links between environmental and GVC governance. Strategically, it provides ideas on how governments, social movements and civil society organizations could enact change that is cognizant of GVC (dis)articulations as operated through processes of environmental de/revaluation.

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