5f. Sustainable Value Chains and trade

Track chairs:

Walter J.V. Vermeulen. Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands. w.j.v.vermeulen@uu.nl

Valerie Nelson. Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, London, UK. valairn@ntlworld.com

Ximena Rueda. Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia. x.rueda@uniandes.edu.co

Goals and objectives of the track

Market-based mechanisms for social and environmental governance are on the rise: from certification, to direct procurement, to distribution channels involving the base of the pyramid, companies are engaging in addressing the most pressing societal and environmental issues through their value chains.

These practices of self-governance originally relied upon the organizing capacities, field experience and collaborative efforts of front-runner companies and globally acting NGOs, while governments have been on the side-line (Vermeulen and Kok, 2012). More recently new forms of concerted market-NGO-governments strategies have been successfully implemented. Some companies are currently looking beyond standards to other kinds of interventions that lead to community empowerment and participatory agreements. They are also redefining their relationship with governments to produce better outcomes and transformations within their industries (Lambin et al. 2014). This new approach has recently been termed ‘global market transitions'. Research is needed which teases out these new forms of governance of landscape and value chains and their development implications.

Key questions arise as to how capable these global market transitions are in helping modern societies overcome the challenges of climate change, biodiversity collapse, and extreme poverty.  Are voluntary sustainability standards and other associated corporate responses to sustainability fit for the purpose of achieving a circular and fair global economy? What further innovations or scaling up is needed, or are there are alternative approaches which would be more effective?

To understand the effectiveness of voluntary standards and other sustainability innovations in global supply chains, there is a need for more learning and impact assessment. Despite an increase in the evidence base, there still remain many gaps, because of the diversity of locations in which VSS are being adopted and the rapid expansion into new products, and also due to the identification of new sustainability issues requiring attention, such as gender, landscape issues, etc. Further, learning and impact studies need to assess which kinds of smart governance mixes and collaborative approaches are effective under what conditions, and whether they too have limits. The development of a form of ‘meta'-governance, including new approaches by governments, combining public policy strategies with the demonstrated virtues of self-governance is increasingly seen by the community of practice, researchers and policy-makers as being the way forwards. Critical research evidence and insights are needed to understand whether such a meta-governance system can evolve and be effective in securing social and environmental sustainability.

We welcome any research or critical review paper addressing one or more of the issues suggested here.


You may submit your abstract by visiting the Ex Ordo abstract submission system (you will be required to setup an account first): http://isdrs2017.exordo.com


References used:
Lambin, E. F., Meyfroidt, P., Rueda, X., Blackman, A., Börner, J., Cerutti, P. O., . & Walker, N. F. (2014). Effectiveness and synergies of policy instruments for land use governance in tropical regions. Global Environmental Change, 28, 129-140.
Vermeulen, W. J. V., & Kok, M. T. J. (2012). Government interventions in sustainable supply chain governance: Experience in Dutch front-running cases. Ecological economics, 83, 183-196.



Dr. Walter J.V. Vermeulen is based at at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development of Utrecht University (NL). Also linked to Stellenbosch University (SA), Prof. Vermeulen has a over 30 years experience in analyzing progress in implementing environmental practices in business in many different countries. He active as President of the ISDRS. As researcher he is especially focusing on new forms of private governance in international supply chains, both in Europe as in supplier countries worldwide and on corporate sustainability strategies of frontrunning firms and performance measurement. In his work he focusses on making connections between on the one hand prescriptive theories and methodologies for sustainable production and consumption and on the other hand (quantitative) scientific analysis of the practices of application of these theories and methods applying a broad social science approach. At Utrecht University he has as well been active as program leader of the International Master Sustainable Development. Recently he contributed to the start up of the new Sustainable Business and Innovation master in Utrecht. Prof. Vermeulen has published some 200 articles, reports, books advices etc., including 46 articles in Scopus registered international journals. He is also a member of the Editorial Boards of four scientific international journals: the journals Sustainable Development, Business Strategy and the Environment, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management and Progress in Industrial Ecology.

Valerie Nelson is a social development specialist at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich. She conducts research and consultancies on the social dimensions of agricultural and rural development. She leads the Equitable Trade and Responsible Business Programme at the NRI and has conducted a series of studies on the impacts of fair and ethical trading schemes, corporate codes of practice, sustainability standards and currently responsible business initiatives. She is currently evaluating several UK Government programmes on trade and global value chains, responsible business and investments in forests and sustainable land use as well as supporting on-going research on the impact of the Better Cotton Initiative in India and Rainforest Alliance in Ghana. She has undertaken academic work on the politics of private standards and published on non-state market mechanisms and poverty impact. She sat on the UK Development Studies Association Council for six years.

Ximena Rueda is Associate Professor and Director of Sustainability at the School of Management at Universidad de los Andes. Her work focuses on the impacts of globalization on land use, particularly for tropical commodities. She is currently working on understanding corporate strategies for sustainable supply chain management for sectors such as cocoa, coffee and palm oil, throughout Latin America. She has extensive experience on rural development and conservation. Ximena holds a B.A. and M.A. in economics from Universidad de los Andes, an Master in City Planning from MIT, and a PhD in Geography from Clark University. She did a post doc at Stanford University and was  visiting scholar there at the Center for Food Security and the Environment.