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Social Capital and Sustainable Coffee Certifications in Costa Rica

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Social capital has many applications in the adoption and management of voluntary certifications such as Fair trade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz, and CAFE Practices. We used a mixed-methods approach to assess social capital in five Costa Rican coffee cooperatives. We applied this information to its effects on the management of sustainable coffee certifications We found that the level of social capital affects the manner in which cooperatives manage certifications in terms of incentivizing certified members, distributing the profits from certification, and cooperating with outside organizations. Generalized trust was found to have an important link with voluntary participation in Rainforest Alliance certification when no financial incentive was provided. However, given the small differences among the cooperatives in micro-scale social capital, we conclude that certifications have not or have not yet made great impacts on the social capital on the micro-scale. This research presents important considerations for employing certifications and other sustainable development projects in different national contexts.

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Correspondence to Anna Snider.

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This work was conducted as part of a PhD thesis supported by the Agricultural Transformation by Innovation (AGTRAIN) Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate Program, funded by the EACEA (Education, Audiovisual, and Culture Executive Agency) of the European Commission, grant number 2011–0019.

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Snider, A., Afonso Gallegos, A., Gutiérrez, I. et al. Social Capital and Sustainable Coffee Certifications in Costa Rica. Hum Ecol 45, 235–249 (2017).

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