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The Emergence of a Standards Market: Multiplicity of Sustainability Standards in the Global Coffee Industry

Organization Studies, 33 (5/6), pp. 789-812, 2012

43 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2011 Last revised: 24 Jul 2012

Juliane Reinecke

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School

Stephan Manning

University of Massachusetts at Boston - College of Management

Oliver von Hagen

International Trade Centre (UN/WTO)

Date Written: July 1, 2012

Abstract

The growing number of voluntary standards for governing transnational arenas is presenting standards organizations with a problem. While claiming that they are pursuing shared, overarching objectives, at the same time, they are promoting their own respective standards that are increasingly similar. By developing the notion of ‘standards markets,’ this paper examines this tension and studies how different social movement and industry-driven standards organizations compete as well as collaborate over governance in transnational arenas. Based on an in-depth case study of sustainability standards in the global coffee industry, we find that the ongoing co-existence of multiple standards is being promoted by the interplay between two countervailing mechanisms: convergence and differentiation. In conjunction, these mechanisms are enabling the emergence and persistence of a market for standards through what we describe as meta-standardization of sustainable practices. Meta-standardization leads to convergence at the ‘rules of the game’ level, but allows also differentiation at the attributes level, which is enabling parties to create and maintain their own standards. Our study helps to advance the understanding of transnational governance by explaining the dynamics of competing and collaborating non-state actors in constituting a standards market.

Keywords: Certification, coffee industry, Fairtrade, meta-standardization, sustainability, standards markets, social movements, transnational governance

JEL Classification: F13, F16, F18, F53, F55, F59, L15, L32, O13, O19, P45, P48, Q11, Q17, Q28, Q56, L2, L5

Suggested Citation

Reinecke, Juliane and Manning, Stephan and von Hagen, Oliver, The Emergence of a Standards Market: Multiplicity of Sustainability Standards in the Global Coffee Industry (July 1, 2012). Organization Studies, 33 (5/6), pp. 789-812, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1970343

Juliane Reinecke (Contact Author)

University of Warwick - Warwick Business School ( email )

Gibbet Hill Rd.
Coventry, West Midlands CV4 8UW
United Kingdom

Stephan Manning

University of Massachusetts at Boston - College of Management ( email )

100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125
United States

Oliver Von Hagen

International Trade Centre (UN/WTO) ( email )

54-56 Rue de Montbrillant
Geneva, 1202
Switzerland

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