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


  • Doris Fuchs


  • Agni Kalfagianni
  • Tetty Havinga



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

Suggested Citation

  • Doris Fuchs & Agni Kalfagianni & Tetty Havinga, 2011. "Actors in private food governance: the legitimacy of retail standards and multistakeholder initiatives with civil society participation," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 28(3), pages 353-367, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:28:y:2011:i:3:p:353-367
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9236-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ken Conca, 2001. "Consumption and Environment in a Global Economy," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 1(3), pages 53-71, August.
    2. 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.
    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. 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 (IFAMA), vol. 2(03/04).
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