DSA2017: Sustainability Interrogated: Societies, Growth, and Social Justice
- Aarti Krishnan (University of Manchester) email
- Judith Krauss (University of Manchester) email
- Khalid Nadvi (University of Manchester) email
- Stephanie Barrientos (Global Development Institute) email
Given diverse understandings of what sustainability is and what it may constitute across global and regional production networks and value chains, there is a need to rethink what the polysemic concept means in terms of tensions, trade-offs and implications for stakeholder agency and governance.
What is sustainability and what does it constitute? Value chains and production networks involving diverse actors in and from the Global North and South, require stakeholders to reconcile and negotiate diverging meanings and understandings of ‘sustainability’. Tensions and trade-offs are thus involved.Sustainability dynamics are further complicated against the backdrop of rising South-South trade and the emergence of regional production networks and value chains. Crucially, the contested nature of sustainability not only encompasses the diversity of economic, environmental and social objectives, but also the question to whom benefits of ‘sustainability’ measures accrue.
Therefore, there is a need to re-think definitions of sustainability, does it reinforce existing asymmetries of power and agency? What are the key mechanisms that change the landscape of sustainability governance? and how do different understandings of sustainability re-shape development outcomes in production networks?
The panel welcomes papers on issues including, but not limited to:
- Tensions, trade-offs and synergies relating to stakeholders’ diverging understandings of economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability in value chains and production networks
- The nexus of economic, social and environmental upgrading in value chains and production networks as key modes of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals
- Alternative forms of sustainability governance: thinking beyond corporate social responsibility and voluntary sustainability standards
- The relationship between sustainability and agency in production networks and value chains
- The relevance of sustainability discourses to debates relating to labour, human and environmental rights in production contexts
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Interrogating 'sustainability' in value chains and production networks
As sustainability has evolved into a prominent buzzword, the paper interrogates and problematizes the concept's diverse framings, meanings and implications in the context of diverse stakeholders within the value chains and production network literature.
Sustainability is manifesting itself as an increasingly prominent buzzword across global and regional value chains and production networks literature. Mechanisms such as the proliferation of voluntary private standards and certifications, fair redistribution of value generated and environmentally efficient technological advances demonstrate its omnipresence, but also show that sustainability seems to be driven by a variety of motivations including ethical awareness, supply security and risk aversion. Given the term's malleable meanings, diverse stakeholders across varied contexts use 'sustainability' without problematizing what it is or is to entail: this not only causes divergent opinions as to what it stands for, but also affects the intended implications for production and trade in value chains and production networks. There is thus a need to interrogate the meanings, assumptions and framings of sustainability in a value chains and production network context, thereby abetting improved understanding of the intended implications for various stakeholders.
This paper performs a meta-study of existing value chain/production network research. It seeks to review motivations for inserting sustainability into production networks, problematizes non-existent or diverging definitions of sustainability, and highlights how different framings filter into outcomes. Through a typology categorizing the links between sustainability and value chains/production networks, it reviews existing literature while also making an original contribution through its proposed categorisation. It also asks how its findings are relevant against the backdrop of the growing polycentricity of trade, arguing that unpacking the implications of sustainability's many framings and facets is essential amid ever-growing complexities in trade and production relations.
An analysis of Women Workers' Agency in the Zambian cut flower industry using the Global Production Network Framework: Mechanisms and pathways for change
Using the GPN framing as a basis for unravelling women's experience of work in the cutflower industry of Zambia, the study concluded that women's agency is reflected in the survival strategies they employed. These strategies also point to sustainable outcomes that may arise for women's agency.
Why focus on women's agency from a GPN perspective?
Women's experience of work and agency has received insignificant attention in the GPN literature. The GPN is influential in unravelling women's status and position in the chain because it maps out the networks and linkages that exist and power dynamics that arise but mainly focussing on companies. By focusing on companies, it neglects workers and the social dimensions of sustainability. Thus, taking what has been done so far on women's integration into global markets and extending the GPN framework to women workers' own accounts of work in the floricultural industry, this study places women workers' agency as the centre of analysis by capturing the different narratives of women's experience of work and how this relates to their home and community life. This contributes to broader questions of whether economic upgrading of the GPN is accompanied by social upgrading, i.e. the social and gender benefits from expansion into non-traditional agricultural exports.
The study found that, by women drawing on institutional structures, their own interactions with their colleagues, women expressed their agency in ingenious ways. First, discerning their environment, and second, positioning themselves within it. Ultimately, women had resolved to continue working, so the onus was on them to form strategic alliances with colleagues, or forego interactions when they were disruptive, but doing so allowed them to navigate the complex maze of social interaction and led to different sustainable outcomes for women due to their involvement in such production chains.
Discourses of Sustainability and Ethical Tensions in Dairy Production Networks
This paper explores ethical tensions surround issues of sustainability in dairy production networks, drawing on case study research from the Caribbean and UK.
When we talk of sustainability we often think of environmental sustainability first and foremost. However, the ethical good of environmental sustainability interacts with other ethical goods of human nutrition, animal welfare and producer livelihoods. With rapidly changing patterns of food production and consumption across the globe, how do we conceptualise and balance these increasingly competing ethical goods and tensions, and what impact does this have on our understanding of sustainability? This paper draws on previous research on the dairy value chain in Trinidad and Tobago, and the wider Caribbean, and preliminary findings from current research in the UK industry to pull out some of the key ethical tensions in global dairy production networks and how different stakeholders at different locations within them construct discourses in relation to their sustainability.
Sustainable Clothing Supply Network: Investigating The Stakeholder Relationship Using Social Network Analysis
Using Social Network Analysis techniques, we explore the interconnectedness and relationships between the varied stakeholders in the complex system of global clothing supply network to facilitate improvement of decision makings and practices in sustainable and responsible clothing industry.
The international clothing supply network is a complex system of supply chains. As stakeholders trying to incorporate sustainability and ethical initiatives, such network has become even more complex. Much of this complexity arises from the interconnectedness and interactions amongst the stakeholders. However, traditional depictions of this network of stakeholders do not reveal their influences, importance and accountabilities. This creates challenges when trying to identify where to pinpoint research to improve sustainable and ethical practices in sustainable and responsible clothing industry.
Based on the review of existing literatures and models, this paper explores the usefulness of Social Network Analysis (SNA) techniques to identify who the stakeholders are and how they relate and interact with each other, to provide a picture of the stakeholder network for targeted improvement in clothing sustainability.
Different stakeholders are mapped as individual nodes within the clothing supply network and linked by their reliance on each other. Using SNA, both qualitative and quantitative characteristics of the network have been explored: the overall qualitative network characteristics are investigated through visual representations of the structural features in graphs; while quantitative characteristics through formal network measurements and statistics. Although with data limitations, such investigations revealed interesting findings that are not obvious without applying SNA and provide indications of "pinch points" to facilitate improvement of decision makings and practices in sustainable and responsible clothing industry.
Making Governance work for Sustainable Cut-flower Value Chains
Certified ethical and sustainability standards have a low profile within the cut-flower sector in spite of the many socio-environmental problems embedded within the industry. A range of opportunities and challenges must be confronted if progressive governance systems are to evolve in the future.
There have been a number of academic outputs and activist reports which have highlighted problematic working conditions, social challenges and environmental degradation linked to cut-flower production. Global cut-flower value chains which target northern European supermarkets are unusual in that there is comparatively little application of standards and certifications compared to other fresh product value chains, which almost routinely require standards such as GlobalGap and often an ethical certification. However, there is some evidence that stakeholders within cut-flower value chains are beginning to recognise the need to apply a range of sustainability standards. Identifying effective institutional governance arrangements through which to drive these standards is a significant challenge but is clearly of critical importance if the global cut-flower industry's practices are to become more closely aligned with the ideals of a socially just circular economy and if risks from climate change are to be mitigated.
Drawing upon multi-locale research into cut-flower supply chains, with a specific focus upon South African cut-flowers, the paper will (i) demonstrate the spaces within which different forms of governance and regulation operate within the cut-flower sector; (ii) critically evaluate the nature of the gaps that exist in relation to ethical and environmental sustainability measures; (iii) examine who benefits most from the ethical-sustainability standards that are applied; and (iv) outline the implications of rising South-South trade. The paper will conclude by reflecting upon the implications for moving 'beyond audit' within supply chain governance and the contributions such moves can make towards the implementation of truly sustainable practices.
Do agricultural certification schemes for social sustainability benefit producers and workers in developing countries? A systematic review
Certification schemes (CS) set and monitor voluntary standards to make agricultural
production socially sustainable and agricultural trade fairer for producers and workers. Certification increases prices and income from produce, but not wages or total household income, and evidence is very limited
Certification schemes (CS) set and monitor voluntary standards to make agricultural production socially sustainable and agricultural trade fairer for producers and workers. This paper presents the results of a systematic review to assess whether certification schemes work for the wellbeing of agricultural producers and workers in low- and middle income countries. The review conducted wide searches encompassing all relevant bibliographic databases and grey literature found in a wide range of institutional websites as well as consultations with relevant organizations and researchers. The results of the review are based on 43 studies used for analysing quantitative effects, and a meta-ethnography of 136 qualitative studies for synthesizing barriers, enablers and other contextual factors. The most recent studies included in the review were published July 2016 and the search took 1990 as starting point.
Despite the volume of literature found, the evidence base is very limited and inconclusive. We considered a range of final socio-economic outcomes such as income, wages and health as well as some intermediate outcomes such as prices and yields. Certification increases prices and income from produce, but not wages or total household income. Context matters substantially for the causal chain between interventions of certification schemes and the wellbeing of producers and workers. Certification agencies should adopt simpler programmes adapted to local context and rigorously test their impact. They should consider their broad social sustainability claims in light of what is achievable and what evidence of impact can be generated.
Governance in Global Production Networks and Local Sustainability Challenges: Experiences of Sustainability Transitions in Cotton Garment Production in India
This paper explores causal mechanisms involved in transformations of production practices related to sustainability challenges in local productive systems found within a global production network. A key focus is the roles and interactions of vertical and horizontal governance pressures.
Global production networks (GPNs) connect producers in the creation of manufactured products. Within GPNs, diverse sustainability challenges can occur across fragmented stages of production. This paper seeks to understand governance processes taking place during the creation of a product. Theories of lead-firm governance developed to understand dynamics in global value chains and GPNs can provide insight into this issue (De Marchi et al. 2013; Gereffi et al. 2005; Gereffi 1994). However, these theories and the related empirical research have often focused on relationships between lead-firms and upper-tier suppliers. When manufacturing involves multiple processes that are fragmented across dispersed locations using different forms of technology, understanding producers' experiences becomes more complex. More research is needed on governance processes taking place in lower-tiers of supplier networks.
The proposed paper is based on examining cotton garment production in India. Three distinct cases of local productive systems responsible for different stages of garment production are considered. Each has undergone significant changes to production practices related to a sustainability challenge. Using data from field research, along with documentary evidence and published materials providing details about the changes that took place in each case, the analysis considers how producers in GPNs are embedded in network and territorial locations (Henderson et al. 2002; Hess 2004; Coe and Yeung 2015) and subject to vertical and horizontal governance pressures. Exploring the causal mechanisms in these cases provides insight into how different types of governance pressures can effectively create changes across diverse local productive systems within a GPN.
Exploring labour agency and embeddedness in fruit production networks: the cases of South Africa and Greece
The influence of national and local social and institutional context in shaping labour agency remains under-explored in GPN research. Through investigating the Greek and South African fruit sectors, we explore the role of embeddedness on labour agency in production networks.
The expansion of global production networks (GPNs) has led to major shifts in export horticulture. The emerging literature on labour agency in GPNs explores how workers respond to commercial pressures to improve their working conditions. Although the GPN framework's concept of embeddedness accounts for the influence of national and local social and institutional context in shaping labour agency, this remains an under-explored avenue of research. This paper seeks to address this gap through the following research question: how do the tensions between commercial pressures and societal relations play out in different contexts, and what are the implications for different forms of labour agency in fruit production networks? The paper seeks to answer this research question through the case studies of the South African and Greek fruit export sectors. A comparative case study highlights how the different context shapes the ability (or not) of labour to challenge the commercial dynamics of global production networks. The paper argues that different national and local configurations facilitate/challenge the ability of actors to exercise agency through opening up opportunities for certain forms of agency, while disabling others.
Global Production and the Rise of the Global South: Unpacking 21st century polycentric trade
This article considers the implications of the shifting dynamics of global trade and the greater prominence of Southern actors for the conceptualisation of GVCs and GPNs, pointing to the need for greater consideration of multiple end markets i.e. domestic, regional and global VCs and PNs.
A growing body of research points to the "Rise of the South" and the growth of South-South trade. This article considers the implications of the shifting dynamics of global trade and the greater prominence of Southern actors for the conceptualisation of global value chains (GVCs) and production networks (GPNs). It first explores the changing geography of global trade through trade data analysis. It then goes on to suggest that our understanding of GVCs and GPNs in a context where Southern actors and Southern end markets have more prominent roles requires greater attention to the existence of multiple different value chains (VCs) and production networks (PNs) serving different end markets - including domestic, regional and global. Consequently, both governance dynamics - lead firm strategies and standards requirements - as well as upgrading prospects must be refined based on recognition of this shifting trade geography and emergence of more polycentric trade. The article concludes by raising a number of new research questions regarding the conceptualisation of VCs and PNs in a world where Southern actors and Southern markets are increasingly important.
Making Organic Sustainable: Smallholder Farmers In India Between Global and Domestic Value Chains for Organic Rice
We compare export and domestic organic rice value chains in India in terms of the benefits accrued to smallholder farmers. I focus on preliminary findings about how organic agriculture is conceptualized by different actors, and how this affects market access for smallholder farmers.
Smallholder-farming is regarded as the backbone of agriculture and food security. Particular scrutiny in recent academic debates has been given to the implications of the agri-food globalization for small-scale or smallholder farmers (SHF), including their integration into complex and highly organized global agricultural value chains (AVC) and production networks. Increasing demand in the Global North for more sustainably-produced foods has led to debates on the benefits and challenges of SHF in the Global South growing organic crops for export. However, recent developments indicate that markets for these types of products are also growing in countries of the Global South. In this paper, I compare organic rice production value chains for export and for domestic markets in India, and focus in particular on the role of quality parameters or standards that define "organic agriculture" in the respective markets.
Qualitative interviews with farmers, traders and NGOs conducted in India in early 2017 suggest a contested understanding of "organic", and of sustainable agriculture in general. Through this presentation I offer a summary of the different conceptions in export and domestic AVC and highlight the possible conflicts and the synergies that arise out of these differences for SHF, with the ultimate goal being agricultural systems that ensure a more inclusive and sustainable agriculture.
I argue in conclusion that encouraging and legitimizing localized initiatives for sustainable agriculture and the various actors involved will not only benefit SHF and local communities but also contribute to the improvement of globally shared standards for sustainability in AVCs.
Fighting to survive: agency and alternative markets for Kenyan smallholder flower farmers
Kenyan smallholder flower farmers lack agency in the diversity of paths taken to restrictive export markets. Depending on capabilities and institutional support the paper poses downgrading, strategic diversification and the use of e-commerce to regional markets for their sustainable participation.
In the past decade, the sustainability of Kenyan smallholder flower farmers' production and indeed their survival has been precarious (Mather, 2008; Mytelka, 2009; Bolo, 2010). Dominated by large players in a liberalised environment, it has been dependent on the benevolence of 'ethical agents' (Dolan, 2007; IIED, 2012) and various multi-stakeholder processes (Dolan & Opondo, 2005) to negotiate international codes and certifications for export market access, supply 'development' finance and develop traceability mechanisms. Smallholders' market access is restricted and where attained, it is on the terms of and through the mediation of northern actors.
Based on findings from field work in Kenya, the paper will highlight the diversity of paths to local and international markets that have contributed to the sustainability of smallholders. The paper will highlight variations of capacity building partnerships between farmers and exporting agents as well as increased policy visibility and institutional support at the county level as a result of the devolution process. The paper will selectively propose strategic diversification (Barrientos et. al, 2015), downgrading (Ponte & Ewert, 2009; Blazˇek, 2015) and e-commerce as alternatives where smallholders can position themselves as niche suppliers to the regionally expanding supermarket chains (Reardon, et.al, 2003) such as Nakumatt, Game and Carrefour to meet the evolving middle, upper class and corporate preferences. By posing this challenge to the asymmetry of power in global export markets, smallholders can become agents of their own sustainability and co-creators of a more relational flower value chain.
Survivors vs. Creators: A comparative analysis of Kenyan footwear and bag manufacturers
By focusing on the Kenyan tanning sector, this study examines the triggers of functional upgrading for local suppliers dealing with lead firms in Southern, Northern, and Regional markets. This achieved through a combination of disaggregated gross export data and a set of qualitative interviews.
Drawing on the GVC and GPN literature as well as the research on South-South trade and innovation, this study compares the impact that lead firms in different end-markets have on Kenyan leather manufacturers. This is achieved through a quantitative comparison of unit values both within- and across-firm, the creation of a stability index in the buyer-supplier relationship, and the degree of directedness embedded in the governance relationship. The quantitative analysis is supported by qualitative evidence on the horizontal and vertical triggers of upgrading and their link to the specific mark of reference.
Participation in South-North, South-South GVCs and RVCs display very different dynamics in terms of governance and functional upgrading. While suppliers involved in South-North value chains present higher degrees of product and process upgrading, they fail to functionally upgrade. RVCs absorb most functional upgrading with both South-South and Regional markets being the most conductive to functional upgrading. This phenomenon, however, is not explained by elements of governance and knowledge sharing, but is rather embedded in entrepreneurial considerations about exploration and exploitation practices that underpin the actors' learning capacity. In such context, decreasing quality, standardized production and lowering margins are the driving force of functional upgrading as they boost exploration over exploitation. Industrial policy aspects along with entrepreneurship and capabilities are external elements that cooperate in shaping upgrading outcomes.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.