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Transitioning a sustainability regime: standards as governing devices

Abstract : Sustainability, given its relatively undefined nature, provides an opportunity for several different groups to compete over what type of agriculture should be considered sustainable. A variety of sustainability standards have emerged in the private sectors, driven often by non-governmental organizations, which stake claims on different niches in the market for sustainable food and agriculture products. This is illustrative of the wide-scale adoption of standards as a means by which to govern alternative agri-food innovations and food security, which is well documented in the literature. We observe collaboration amongst sustainability standards within the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance and we argue that ISEAL’s Assurance Code is part of the construction of a ‘tripartite standards regime’ (TSR), which is a techno-economic regime of governance based on processes that constitute governing by standards. We find that the construction of a TSR is important for the transitioning of this socio-technical system into the mainstream of sustainability debates in agriculture. Moreover, this transitioning process is fundamentally a process of performation, and as such, allows those involved actors the possibility of defining and interpreting how the value of sustainability should be enacted. Through an analysis of the contestations that are part of the assurance code development process, we highlight those aspects where the actors have voiced concern as well as the analytical boundaries that we see emerging. We conclude that the rendering of the assurance code as a technical activity has implications for the valuation of sustainability and in turn the effectiveness of ‘governing by standards’ as a governance regime.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 7:36:39 AM
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  • HAL Id : hal-02744486, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 189480



Allison Marie Loconto, Marc Barbier. Transitioning a sustainability regime: standards as governing devices. The Governance of Innovation and Socio-Technical Systems: Theorising and Explaining Change. International Workshop, 2012, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, March 1-2, 2012, Denmark. ⟨hal-02744486⟩



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