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Sector, Landscape or Rural Transformations? Exploring the Limits and Potential of Agricultural Sustainability Initiatives through a Cocoa Case Study

Valerie Nelson and David Phillips

Business Strategy and the Environment, 2018, vol. 27, issue 2, 252-262

Abstract: This paper analyses the changing nature of sustainability initiatives and their capacity to tackle sustainability challenges, focusing on cocoa in West Africa, and distilling lessons pertinent across agro†export industries and regions. Using data from empirical studies, literature review and consultations with key cocoa actors, we find ‘sustainable’ cocoa at a critical juncture. Applying an existing theoretical framework that distinguishes between resilience, transition and transformation of systems, we explore and analyse previous, current and future sustainability responses. We conclude that there are important innovations and upscaling of investment occurring in the cocoa sector on sustainability, but also that current approaches risk achieving only incremental change, helping to sustain the industry under deteriorating conditions (resilience), without enabling smallholders to claim rights and greater representation (transition) or tackling more fundamental root causes of the vulnerability of smallholders (transformation). Copyright © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment

Date: 2018
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