Voluntary standards and institutional innovations – the right path to sustainable and inclusive food systems?
This article, published by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), reflects upon efforts to link sustainable production with responsible consumption both within global value chains and within domestic markets in developing countries. Most approaches towards making food systems sustainable look at production practices as the main entry point into system change. However, the authors argue, enabling consumers to identify products as being produced sustainably is fundamental to incentivizing farmers to market their products in this way. The authors found that a wide range of actors in developing countries are inventing new forms of interaction and organisation to supply local markets with sustainable agricultural products. These ‘institutional innovations’ are the new rules and forms of interaction that help actors from civil society, the private sector and even civil servants to redefine sustainable practices for the local level and bring together food systems actors that have not traditionally worked together. Three types of innovations deserve particular attention by policy makers: participatory guarantee systems, multi-actor innovation platforms and community-supported agriculture. Overall, the authors found that autonomy, reciprocity and recognition of the diverse types of knowledge fostered through institutional innovations all serve as incentives for producers to adopt and adapt sustainable practices. In sum, social and institutional innovations are as essential as technological innovations in transitions to sustainable food systems, and they require policy support.
This article is published in the Greats Insights magazine with a thematic focus on sustainable food systems.