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Transitioning sustainability: Performing ‘governing by standards

Abstract : Sustainability, as a collective action problem, presents 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 sector that stake claims on different niches in the market for sustainable food and agriculture products. This is illustrative of an observed trend in the use of standards to govern agrifood innovations for sustainability. Over the past ten years there has been increased collaboration among sustainability standards within the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling (ISEAL) Alliance. Relying upon data from participant observation and content analysis, 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 the interrelated 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 reflect upon the implications for both the valuation of sustainability and ‘governing by standards’ as a means to govern socio-technical transitions.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 10:49:43 AM
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  • HAL Id : hal-02746811, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 270489



Allison Marie Loconto, Marc Barbier. Transitioning sustainability: Performing ‘governing by standards. "Design and Displacement: social studies of science and technology" 4S/EASST Joint Conference 2012, Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S). USA., Oct 2012, Copenhagen, Denmark. ⟨hal-02746811⟩



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