Sustainability and Green Capital Accumulation: Lessons from the South African Wine Value Chain

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This chapter highlights how sustainability and green capital accumulation go hand in hand, operating on the back of a structural logic that allows the extraction of value from producers as they attempt to improve their environmental performance. The case study of the wine industry in South Africa is, at a superficial level, a success story of economic and environmental upgrading and of improved international competitiveness. However, the growing concentration of the wine industry globally has come together with increased bargaining power by retailers and international merchants, which is leading to a cascade of squeezed margins upstream all the way to grape and wine suppliers. This chapter shows that: (1) sustainability is used opportunistically by global ‘lead firms’ for marketing, reputational enhancement, and risk management purposes; (2) South African value chain actors and institutions have invested heavily in portraying the industry and individual companies as caring for the environment; and (3) major economic and environmental upgrading processes in the South African wine value chain have taken place, but have not led to positive economic outcomes for most domestic players. Collectively, these lessons suggest a combined process of capital accumulation by lead firms, coupled with a process of supplier squeeze
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStructural Transformation in South Africa : The Challenges of Inclusive Industrial Development in a Middle-income Country
EditorsAntonio Andreoni, Pamela Mondliwa, Simon Roberts, Fiona Tregenna
Number of pages22
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2021
ISBN (Print)9780192894311
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Sustainability
  • Inequality
  • Structural transformation
  • Green capitalism
  • Global value chains

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