Suppliers in agri-food chains are required to comply with an ever-growing set of standards to secure market access. This project is concerned with private standards initiatives (PSIs) and the actors involved in developing and monitoring these standards particularly those in developing countries.
Focusing on fresh vegetables and cut flowers from Kenya, the project explores what private standards and initiatives mean for 'governance' or the exercise of power. It explores the power relations amongst different groups and organisations participating in or excluded from PSIs with a view to identifying which are most powerful and how roles are changing.
Our research highlights the powerful role of retailers and exporters in PSIs, but also how new actors such as donors have played a role in shaping these initiatives. We show how smallholders and workers have been effectively excluded from the debates and how other organisations such as NGOs that seek to speak for smallholders and workers are also constrained in the context of retailer power.
Our fieldwork in Kenya demonstrates the limited ability of PSIs in this particular situation to instigate transformative change. There have been some improvements in how labour rights and good agricultural practices standards have been implemented and some changes to standards and audits reflect local conditions. However, the highly political nature of private standards and related institutions and the power inequalities involved means that the agenda is largely about how to ensure compliance rather than how to institutionalise improvements on farms.
Tallontire, A.; Martin, A.; Nelson, V. Governance Implications of Private Standards Initiatives in Agri-Food Chains. ESRC End of Award Report, RES-167-25-0195-A. (2010) 9 pp.