Is Sustainability Governance Abetting Inequality? Reflections from the South African Wine Value Chain

Stefano Ponte*, Reena Das Nair, Shingie Chisoro

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Private and public governance instruments seeking to ensure sustainability in agro-food value chains have become ubiquitous in the past three decades. Virtually all major retailers, agro-food processors and international commodity traders have been involved in one or another sustainability initiative or multistakeholder engagement. An emerging critical literature shows that achieving sustainability goals along value chains often comes at the cost of profitability at the production level. While some hope has been placed on South-driven sustainability standards to better reflect local needs and contexts, their record in doing so has been mixed. In this article, we examine how different kinds of sustainability governance affect inequality within and along the South African wine value chain. We show that sustainability governance is not paying off for many grape growers and wine producers in South Africa, nor is it supporting entry and ownership of historically disadvantaged persons (HDPs) – despite the government’s stated transformation objectives. We conclude that sustainability governance is abetting existing inequalities and question the ability of current initiatives to shape more just, equitable and environmentally-friendly value chains. We also argue that any future discussion of sustainability and its governance in global value chains should also be a discussion of inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103877
JournalGeoforum
Volume147
Number of pages15
ISSN0016-7185
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords

  • Sustainability
  • Inequality
  • Global Value Chains
  • Wine
  • South Africa

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