Governing ‘invisible’ commodities: the case of soy

Authors: Tony Heron*, University of York
Topics: Economic Geography, Sustainability Science, Latin America
Keywords: Global value chains, governance, sustainability, private standards, soy
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper investigates the political economy of sustainability governance with respect to agricultural commodity/value chains (GCC/GVCs). It does so with explicit reference to the case of soy, which is heavily linked to deforestation and habitat loss, especially in Latin America, where close to 60 percent of global production now takes place. The paper explores the implication for sustainability governance in GVCs, like soy, that do not meet the conditions set out by Mayer and Gereffi (2010) for the emergence of robust private governance mechanisms: namely, the presence of buyer-driven GVCs in which lead firms enjoy considerable leverage over upstream suppliers but whose brand reputation is potentially vulnerable to social activism, media exposes and consumer boycotts. The paper then goes on explore and evaluate different emergent governance mechanism in the soy space, including certification, industry-led moratoria, multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the New York and Amsterdam Declarations on ‘zero deforestation’ and the Cerrado Manifesto, as well as technological ‘fixes’ linked to transparency and traceability. Finally, the paper examines the implications of China and India’s role in soy governance for the emergent regulatory landscape.

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