With and beyond sustainability certification: Exploring inclusive business and solidarity economy strategies in Peru and Switzerland
Certification of sustainability standards is an important governance strategy aimed at enhancing the human well-being outcomes of agri-food value chains. While the impacts of certification on well-being are positive for some farmers under certain conditions, they are insignificant or adverse for others. Many barriers can impede positive impacts of certification on well-being. Alternative or complementary strategies such as inclusive business and solidarity economy may challenge these barriers. However, since certification, inclusive business and solidarity economy strategies are studied in isolation, their precise similarities and differences, their interplay and their relative efficacy and limitations remain elusive.
Therefore, this paper explores to what extent and how inclusive business and solidarity economy strategies may overcome the persistent governance and economic barriers that limit well-being impacts of certification. We explore four purposively selected cases of inclusive business and solidarity economy strategies from the cacao value chains connecting Peru and Switzerland. Results show that value chain actors combine different specific elements of the three strategies (certification, inclusiveness and solidarity) into portfolios of instruments, which reflect their value chain role and organizational missions. These instrument portfolios may address some of the barriers of certification schemes, but they come with their own challenges and limitations. We conclude that promising future research may use comparative research designs to disentangle specific instruments of inclusiveness, solidarity, and certification; to build typologies of instrument portfolios; to understand their interaction with systemic change in markets and land-use systems; and to specify the conditions under which value chain actors can use specific instruments to improve well-being outcomes of agri-food value chains.