Agro-industrial Strategies and Voluntary Mechanisms for the Sustainability of Tropical Global Value Chains: The Place of Territories
New forms of private governance are being implemented to mitigate the negative consequences of large-scale agricultural investments. These strategies encompass corporate social and environmental responsibility (CSR) and responsible investment, voluntary standards and sustainability certifications, moratoriums, and ‘zero deforestation’ agreements. What is the real effectiveness of these mechanisms that are based on environmental and social commitments by global value chains? Can these strategies enable a transition from an economy based on agricultural frontiers to one that is more sustainable and integrated territorially? How do these private-sector strategies fit into governmental regulatory frameworks?
To answer these questions, this chapter analyzes two of these mechanisms. In Gabon, we study the implementation of the Olam company’s CSR policy on a rubber plantation. In Brazil, we analyze the impacts of environmental commitments made by the soya bean and beef global value chains. For each of these case studies, we present the context, the features of the standardization mechanisms, and the limitations of these mechanisms, and propose a few alternative paths to follow to overcome the problems identified.
Voluntary mechanisms – whether CSR strategies or arrangements negotiated between a productive sector and NGOs – can only have a limited role in managing the social and environmental impacts of agro-industrial development. The State therefore has a clear regulatory role to play. Even more than the governance of global value chains, it is a matter of inventing new models of sustainable territorial development, along with the accompanying arrangements between the State, global value chains, and other stakeholders.
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