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The productivist rationality behind a sustainable certification process: evidence from the Rainforest Alliance in the Ivorian cocoa sector

Sylvaine Lemeilleur (), Youssoupha N'Dao and François Ruf

International Journal of Sustainable Development, 2015, vol. 18, issue 4, 310-328

Abstract: The pattern of sustainable standard diffusion has received much attention from social science researchers. We contribute to existing literature with a case study on the Rainforest Alliance (RA) initiative in the Ivorian cocoa sector. We scrutinise the RA standard, by drawing on seminal contributions on the pervasive effects of information asymmetry in markets (Akerlof, 1970) and on the inherent uncertainty of credence properties (Darby and Karni, 1973). We examine the uncertainty surrounding standard compliance, in particular, the capacity to enforce the standard. We argue that the translation of principles into auditable technical specifications is very rough. Furthermore, our empirical results from producer surveys show that criteria addressing the productivity issue receive more attention than environmental issues. In a context where chocolate companies are extremely interested in ensuring sustainable supplies, we argue that certification, proclaimed to be 'in the name of sustainability', is mainly perceived as a productivity-enhancing tool.

Keywords: sustainable standards; certification process; information asymmetry; inherent uncertainty; credence properties; productive rationality; cocoa industry; Côte d'Ivoire; Ivory Coast; Rainforest Alliance; standard compliance; enforcement; productivity enhancement. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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