Regulating Sustainability in the Coffee Sector

Laura T. Raynolds, Douglas Murray, and Andrew Heller
Publication Date: 
Certification and labeling initiatives that seek to enhance environmental and social sustainability are growing rapidly. This article analyzes the expansion of these private regulatory efforts in the coffee sector. We compare the five major third-party certifications – the Organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Utz Kapeh, and Shade/Bird Friendly initiatives – outlining and contrasting their governance structures, environmental and social standards, and market positions.
We argue that certifications that seek to raise ecological and social expectations are likely to be increasingly challenged by those that seek to simply uphold current standards. The vulnerability of these initiatives to market pressures highlights the need for private regulation to work in tandem with public regulation in enhancing social and environmental sustainability.