Governing agrifood sustainability through private standards: the case of the ISEAL alliance - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Conference Papers Year : 2011

Governing agrifood sustainability through private standards: the case of the ISEAL alliance


Recent research points to the emergence of ‘tripartite standards regimes’ (TSRs), i.e., regimes based on socio ‐ technical standards that include 1) processes for certifying compliance, 2) processes for accrediting certifiers, and 3) sanctions for violation (Hatanaka and Busch, 2008). Loconto and Busch (2010) argue that these organizations are increasingly influential in performing the current global economy by ‘entangling’ (Callon, 1998) intermediaries and translations with the socio ‐ technical supply chains themselves (cf. Busch, 2007; Callon, 1998). Thus, rather than an institutionalization of mistrust in the global market economy – represented by the need for constant conformity assessment and auditing – this framework reinforces theories of self ‐ governance in the agrifood system that pre ‐ empt state ‐ led regulation of markets (Cashore, Auld, and Newsom, 2004; Hatanaka, Bain, and Busch, 2005; Higgins and Lawrence, 2005; Loconto, 2011; Ponte and Gibbon, 2005; Tallontire et al., 2009). Case studies of ethical and environmental standards show that these conformity assessment systems themselves have been created on political or moral premises, which makes politics fundamental to the exchange process (e.g., Freidberg, 2004; Mansfield, 2004; Ponte, 2008; Raynolds, 2000). This suggests that even within the consolidation of a TSR, political contestations are present. Theories of agrifood governance can help unpack these processes so to better understand how a TSR constructed on the premise of sustainability is emerging. In this paper, we argue that the ISEAL Alliance (the global association for social and environmental standards) is a political actor that utilizes strategies to proselytize its own notion of sustainability and to govern the agrifood system. These strategies include: elaborating rules for standards development, disciplining certification bodies through an assurance code, defining worth through impact assessments, and creating legitimacy for itself by enrolling the research community. By analyzing these strategies we articulate the political dimensions of the emerging global TSR that governs sustainability in the agrifood system.


No file

Dates and versions

hal-02747192 , version 1 (03-06-2020)


  • HAL Id : hal-02747192 , version 1
  • PRODINRA : 189484


Allison Marie Loconto, Eve Fouilleux. Governing agrifood sustainability through private standards: the case of the ISEAL alliance. 24. European Society for Rural Sociology Congress "Inequality and Diversity in European Rural Areas", ESRS (European Society for Rural Society). Devon., Aug 2011, Chania, Greece. ⟨hal-02747192⟩
9 View
0 Download


Gmail Facebook X LinkedIn More