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Actors in private food governance: the legitimacy of retail standards and multistakeholder initiatives with civil society participation


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  • Doris Fuchs


  • Agni Kalfagianni
  • Tetty Havinga


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    Democratic legitimacy is rarely associated with private governance. After all, private actors are not legitimized through elections by a demos. Instead of abandoning democratic principles when entering the private sphere of governance, however, this article argues in favour of employing alternative criteria of democracy in assessments. Specifically, this article uses the criteria of participation, transparency and accountability to evaluate the democratic legitimacy of private food retail governance institutions. It pursues this evaluation of the democratic legitimacy of these institutions against the background of their ambivalent impact on the sustainability of the global agrifood system. The paper refers to a range of cases of private retail standards with different governance structures and substantial foci to illustrate its argument. Copyright The Author(s) 2011

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Agriculture and Human Values.

    Volume (Year): 28 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 3 (September)
    Pages: 353-367

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:3:p:353-367

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    Keywords: Democratic legitimacy; Food standards; Private governance; Retailers; Sustainable development;


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    1. Reardon, Thomas & Codron, Jean-Marie & Busch, Lawrence & Bingen, R. James & Harris, Craig, 1999. "Global Change In Agrifood Grades And Standards: Agribusiness Strategic Responses In Developing Countries," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA), vol. 2(03/04).
    2. Ken Conca, 2001. "Consumption and Environment in a Global Economy," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 1(3), pages 53-71, 08.
    3. Fulponi, Linda, 2006. "Private voluntary standards in the food system: The perspective of major food retailers in OECD countries," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-13, February.
    4. Sally Smith & Stephanie Barrientos, 2005. "Fair trade and ethical trade: are there moves towards convergence?," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(3), pages 190-198.
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    Cited by:
    1. Laura Silva-Castañeda, 2012. "A forest of evidence: third-party certification and multiple forms of proof—a case study of oil palm plantations in Indonesia," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 29(3), pages 361-370, September.
    2. Bitzer, Verena, 2012. "Partnering for Change in Chains: the Capacity of Partnerships to Promote Sustainable Change in Global Agrifood Chains," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA), vol. 15(B).
    3. Lyndal-Joy Thompson & Stewart Lockie, 2013. "Private standards, grower networks, and power in a food supply system," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 379-388, September.
    4. Lemeilleur, Sylvaine, 2013. "Smallholder Compliance with Private Standard Certification: The Case of GlobalGAP Adoption by Mango Producers in Peru," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IAMA), vol. 16(4).
    5. Pepijn Schreinemachers & Iven Schad & Prasnee Tipraqsa & Pakakrong Williams & Andreas Neef & Suthathip Riwthong & Walaya Sangchan & Christian Grovermann, 2012. "Can public GAP standards reduce agricultural pesticide use? The case of fruit and vegetable farming in northern Thailand," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 29(4), pages 519-529, December.
    6. Stephen Davey & Carol Richards, 2013. "Supermarkets and private standards: unintended consequences of the audit ritual," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 271-281, June.
    7. Julie Henderson & Loreen Mamerow & Anne W. Taylor & Paul R. Ward & Samantha B. Meyer & John Coveney, 2013. "The Importance Placed on the Monitoring of Food Safety and Quality by Australian Consumers," Laws, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(2), pages 99-114, May.
    8. Agni Kalfagianni, 2014. "Addressing the Global Sustainability Challenge: The Potential and Pitfalls of Private Governance from the Perspective of Human Capabilities," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 122(2), pages 307-320, June.
    9. Robert Chiles, 2013. "If they come, we will build it: in vitro meat and the discursive struggle over future agrofood expectations," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer, vol. 30(4), pages 511-523, December.


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