Delivering zero deforestation : How governance interventions in agro-food commodity supply chains can foster sustainable land use


September 22, 2021

16 h

Auditoire MERC 12, Place Louis Pasteur

Agro-food commodity consumption is intricately linked to the loss of the planet’s forests. Complex, global agro-food supply chains, which are shaped by globalization processes, tie distant places together, causing consumption in one region to affect land-use in another region, in particular, to drive deforestation. In this thesis, I explore how governance interventions in agro-food commodity supply chains can foster sustainable land use and help deliver deforestation-free agro-food supply chains. I address three specific questions:

  1. How can public actors contribute to, support, coerce, incorporate or otherwise foster governance efforts across the agro-food sector.
  2. To what extent, how and why are companies in the agro-food sector governing sustainability, in particular reducing deforestation?
  3. What approaches exist for governing agro-food commodity supply chains, what the challenges for implementing these, and how can governance solutions foster sustainable land use?

To explore these questions, I draw on the concepts of telecoupling, global value chains, and polycentric governance. I combine qualitative and quantitative methods to analyze data collected from companies and NGOs and public repositories. I conclude that it is not a lack of governance approaches, which hinders sustainability governance of agro-food commodity supply chains. Rather, a confluence of four specific factors complicates public and private governance. Firstly, the complexity of the problem, in particular the ‘wicked’ nature of agro-food commodity-driven deforestation, causes unclear feedbacks and spatially separated cause-effect mechanisms. Secondly, companies and private sector governance play a crucial, but underappreciated role in delivering governance. I show that company characteristics affect governance, while insufficient commitment among laggards and inadequate support for leaders limit the capacity of private sector governance. Thirdly, public governance plays an increasingly important role by supporting, engaging, and enabling private governance efforts through layered governance. Finally, technological advancements can enable governance by aiding implementation, reducing complexity, increasing accountability, and empowering supply chain actors, but technology is not a silver bullet that solves all governance issues.

 will also take place in the form of a video conference Teams