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Looking for the (missing) indicators of social sustainability - Evidence from sustainability standards in the coffee sector


  • Lemeilleur, S.
  • Vagneron, I.


Rising consumer interest for ethical and/or responsible products and the growing interweaving of social and environmental issues question the ability of scientific methods to correctly assess social impacts. To this day however, no consensus has yet been reached on relevant indicators to assess social impacts. In this article, we try to identify consistent indicators of social sustainability, based on the study and comparison of well-known sustainability standards currently used in the coffee sector (FLO, ESR, IMO, ETI, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Globalgap). The choice of relevant indicators is based on their realism and applicability, and on existing consensus among the standards on "minimal requirements" to certify sustainable practices in the coffee sector. Our main contributions to the debate on the choice of significant and relevant indicators are: to identify permanent features and areas of consensus between the different standards studied; and to question the definition of a socially sustainable product. ...French Abstract : L'intérêt grandissant des consommateurs pour les produits éthiques et/ou responsables et l'imbrication croissante des problématiques sociales et environnementales amènent à nous interroger sur la capacité des méthodes scientifiques actuelles à mesurer l'impact social. A ce jour, il n'existe pas de consensus autour d'indicateurs de durabilité sociale. Dans cet article, nous tentons d'identifier des indicateurs pertinents grâce à la comparaison de standards de durabilité communément utilisés dans le secteur du café (FLO, ESR, IMO, ETI, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance and Globalgap). Le choix de la pertinence des indicateurs est basé sur leur réalisme et leur applicabilité, ainsi que sur l'existence d'un consensus entre standards sur un " minimum requis " dans les cahiers des charges, pour la certification de pratiques socialement durables dans le secteur du café. Les contributions principales de ce papier sont : l'identification d'aires de consensus minimal entre les standards et une discussion de la durabilité sociale telle qu'elle est définie par ces standards.

Suggested Citation

  • Lemeilleur, S. & Vagneron, I., 2010. "Looking for the (missing) indicators of social sustainability - Evidence from sustainability standards in the coffee sector," Working Papers MOISA 201008, UMR MOISA : Marchés, Organisations, Institutions et Stratégies d'Acteurs : CIHEAM-IAMM, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro - Montpellier, France.
  • Handle: RePEc:umr:wpaper:201008

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    JEL classification:

    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q13 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Markets and Marketing; Cooperatives; Agribusiness
    • Q17 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agriculture in International Trade
    • L15 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Information and Product Quality


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