Academic Advisory Council Annual Meeting 2023
(Private Meeting)

UNFSS Academic Advisory Council Meeting 2023

12 October 2023

European University Institute, Florence

Building a Sustainable Future for Trade: A Multi-Dimensional Assessment of VSS in Global Sustainability Governance and Due Diligence for developing countries.

Note: Presenting a paper as a panelist is not necessary, but if you do have a paper that you would like to discuss in this meeting, we will gladly consider them if you could fill up the details of your paper in this online form.


Graeme Auld Carleton University Private Auditor Power in the Verification of Voluntary Sustainability Standards Many voluntary sustainability standards schemes (VSSS) use private auditors to verify compliance with their standards. Some of these auditors are firms that have long been operating in the testing, inspection and certification sector or the accounting sector. Yet, the fast growth of VSSSs over the past 25 years has also resulted in the entrance of new audit firms that are specifically geared toward sustainability audits, thereby creating a new market for these types of activities. While theoretically the role of auditors in sustainability verification has received scholarly attention, little empirical work has assessed the structure of audit markets and the position and power of established and new sustainability audit firms. We examine an original dataset of all auditors accredited to work for 76 VSSSs to examine differences across schemes and identify the structural (or positional) power of private auditors. We draw implications for governing these audit markets more effectively.
Rachael Garrett University of Cambridge Variations in voluntary deforestation control efforts across the tropics and why they matter for the EU Deforestation Regulation Consolidates research findings from four deforestation-risk commodities across Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia to understand progress and limitations towards compliance with the EU DR through existing supply chain VSS.
Stefano Ponte Copenhagen Business School Is sustainability governance abetting inequality? Reflections from the South African wine value chain Private and public governance instruments seeking to ensure sustainability in agro-food value chains have become ubiquitous in the past three decades. Virtually all major retailers, agro-food processors and international commodity traders have been involved in one or another sustainability initiative or multistakeholder engagement. An emerging critical literature shows that achieving sustainability goals along value chains often comes at the cost of profitability at the production level. While some hope has been placed on South-driven sustainability standards to better reflect local needs and contexts, their record in doing so has been quite mixed. On the basis of an ongoing research project, we examine how transnational and domestic sustainability governance affects inequality within and along the South African wine value chain. We show that sustainability governance is not paying off for many grape growers and wine producers in South Africa, nor is it supporting entry and ownership of historically disadvantaged persons (HDPs) – despite the government’s stated transformation objectives. We conclude that sustainability is currently abetting existing inequalities. As long as sustainability does not pay for those who are practicing it and does not promote the fair inclusion of HDPs, it will remain a playground by and for the rich.
Janina Grabs ESADE Business School Mapping the ‘legislative tsunami’ of due diligence regulations and preparatory responses in the coffee sector In recent years, the emergence of due diligence legislation and market access regulations has raised the bar on the level of traceability, transparency and responsibility that companies with headquarters in European countries need to demonstrate within their value chains. While many academic and practitioner debates tend to focus on specific legislative advances, the developments of due diligence regulations and other forms of sustainability regulation on trade have been simultaneous in multiple countries and issue areas. This article takes stock of the developments to date and assesses their collective impact, focusing on the example of the coffee sector. Research questions include: What regulatory requirements regarding supply chain accountability are on the table and/or already in force in coffee-importing countries? How do their requirements compare to each other? How are individual importers as well as actor collectives (e.g. the International Coffee Organization Public-Private Taskforce, Sustainable Coffee Challenge, Global Coffee Platform) responding to and preparing for these upcoming, widespread changes in the legal playing field? And what are possible consequences on global product flows and on-the-ground outcomes? We answer these questions based on a comprehensive legislative mapping exercise as well as semi-structured expert interviews with traders and other industry insiders in the coffee sector.
Ximena Rueda Universidad de los Andes VSS in the mining industry Mining causes great environmental damages in tropical countries where it is practices with little regard to social and environmental norms. Certifications and codes of conduct have been proposed to improve practices. Nevertheless, artisanal and small scale miners face substantial challenges to embrace sustainable practices as requisites are high including formalization of their activities. I would like to discuss recent findings form Colombia that show barriers and enablers to formalization as a first sept to enter more sustainable supply chains.