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SustainabiliTea: Shaping Sustinability in Tanzanian Tea Production

Abstract : The use of sustainability standards, such as Ethical Trade, Fairtrade, Organic and Rainforest Alliance, has become a common means for value chain actors to make statements about the values that their products and their networks comply with. Specifically, each written standard codifies values of sustainability that are to govern practices in each chain. For example, the Ethical Tea Partnership works to make this picture transparent to monitor living and working conditions on tea estates, with the aim of making sure that the tea you buy from the members of our Partnership has been produced in a socially responsible way (ETP 2010c). Fairtrade focuses on transparency, partnership and participation, representative democracy, and equal exchange (FLO 2010a); while Organic agriculture is based on the principles of health, ecology, fairness and care (IFOAM 2010b). Finally, the Rainforest Alliance has created its sustainable agriculture standards based on economy, ecology and ethics (Rainforest Alliance 2010a). These four standards systems set out to distinguish themselves, rhetorically and materially, into separate tea value chains based on their visions of sustainability. This dissertation explores these efforts through a case study of these four sustainability standards in the tea industry in Tanzania. The core objective of this dissertation is to understand how these standards networks are performing visions of sustainability, corporate social responsibility and gender equity in practice, and whether these performances are effective in other words, making changes in practices. Using qualitative methods to collect data between 2008 and 2010, this case study adopts a Global Value Chains (GVC) approach to follow the standards in practice. The merging of GVC governance and performativity analysis has revealed that most value chain actors, particularly blenders, in Ethical, Fairtrade, Organic and Rainforest Alliance certified global value chains are utilizing these standards as market devices to gain competitive advantage for their tea. In this dissertation I distinguish between effective and generic performativity (MacKenzie, Muniesa, and Siu 2007), where effective performances are those where aspects of the original concept (or objective) are reproduced in practice, while generic performances utilize aspects of the original concept, but do not effect change in practice. I argue that most of the performances of sustainability in the tea sector are generic, because they are not reenacting the version of sustainability that is codified in the standard. However, analysis of the performances of the values of sustainability, corporate social responsibility and gender equity reveal that these certification networks are actually capitalizing on deeply embedded performances of responsability, equity and sustainability in the Tanzanian tea industry. Therefore, a multiplicity of sustainabilities is revealed, which put into question the ability of social and environmental standards to effect change in practices. The move towards harmonizing aspects of these standards through involvement in the ISEAL Alliance further confirms that the most salient performance of sustainability in these standards networks is the (in)ability to change.
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Submitted on : Saturday, June 6, 2020 - 3:09:08 PM
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  • HAL Id : tel-02817854, version 1
  • PRODINRA : 270512



Allison Marie Loconto. SustainabiliTea: Shaping Sustinability in Tanzanian Tea Production. Life Sciences [q-bio]. Michigan State University [East Lansing], 2010. English. ⟨tel-02817854⟩



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