The Horizontal Governance of Environmental Upgrading: Lessons from the Prosecco and Valpolicella Wine Value Chains in Italy

Stefano Ponte, Valentina de Marchi*, Marco Bettiol, Eleonora Di Maria

*Corresponding author for this work

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Much of the literature on environmental sustainability in global value chains (GVCs) focuses on how ‘lead firms’ (usually global buyers or retailers) can improve the environmental conditions of production among their various layers of suppliers. This approach focuses on the vertical governance dynamics of environmental upgrading along with GVCs. In our contribution, we emphasize the role of horizontal governance as a driver that underpins environmental upgrading processes. These horizontal elements include institutional support, pressure from civil society groups and political dynamics at the local level – which have been relatively overlooked in this literature so far. We examine environmental upgrading in Italian wine value chains, focusing on the fast-growing but environmentally-contested Prosecco and Valpolicella districts. Our analysis suggests that firms within the same industry may follow different processes of environmental upgrading – through certification, going ‘back to tradition’, technological innovation and/or as an articulation of local politics – also depending on their size. We conclude that horizontal governance is playing a more important role than previously thought in shaping environmental upgrading and provide some suggestions for future research in this realm.
Original languageEnglish
Journal Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1884-1905
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Published online: 30 May 2023.


  • Environmental upgrading
  • Horizontal governance
  • Global value chains
  • Wine

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