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Is environmental justice necessary for human well-being? Comparative analysis of certification schemes, inclusive business, and solidarity economy strategies

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - COMPASS (Is environmental justice necessary for human well-being? Comparative analysis of certification schemes, inclusive business, and solidarity economy strategies)

Reporting period: 2021-03-01 to 2022-08-31

Food and agricultural value chains often create unequal distributions of costs and benefits among producers, processors, traders, and consumers. This increases global inequality. At the same time, land grabbing threatens the livelihoods of millions of small-scale producers. Reshaping the impacts of agricultural investments, land use, and trade on human well-being is an urgent challenge. Numerous certification systems, such as “Fairtrade”, have been developed in hopes of addressing this challenge. But it is increasingly apparent that many of these systems have only modestly beneficial impacts on people’s well-being. As a result, various companies, communities, and non-profit organizations are testing alternatives like solidarity-economy initiatives or inclusive business models that integrate low-income communities in value chains. Still, empirical studies show that these strategies, too, often fail to improve the well-being of affected communities. This is where the project “Is environmental justice necessary for human well-being? Comparative analysis of certification schemes, inclusive business, and solidarity economy strategies (COMPASS)” comes in. It hypothesizes that environmental justice is a precondition for the success of certification systems, solidarity-economy initiatives, and inclusive business models in effectively enhancing people’s well-being. The project seeks to develop a “compass” to help organize value chains in line with the principles of environmental justice. It systematically investigates the three strategies – certification schemes, solidarity economy, and inclusive business models – in terms of their instruments, effects on people’s well-being, and impacts on the institutional anchoring of environmental justice.
During the period covered by this report we focused on work packages WP1 (Instruments, Institutions and Value Chains) and WP4 (Integration, Coherence and Synthesis), and we started work for WP2 (Human Well-being) and WP3 (Environmental Justice). Major achievements of the COMPASS project in the reporting period include the implementation of a first-of-its-kind survey of certification, inclusive business and solidarity economy strategies; the exploratory analysis of public policies and legal frameworks in the cocoa sectors of Peru and Switzerland; pilot studies about inclusive value chains and environmental justice; contributions to the advancement of the archetypes approach, an approach to knowledge cumulation and synthesis in sustainability research; our engagement strategy in selected key networks in Peru, EU, Switzerland and at global levels in line with principles of fair and ethical research; the hosting of an international workshop on environmental justice; and the creation of an international working group about the institutionalization of environmental justice (one of the new research directions that COMPASS aims to influence). We have presented first results in scientific conferences, multi-stakeholder venues and dissemination events.
Phase 1:
1) The survey in WP1 will be the first study of its kind to systematically compare organizational strategies of certification, inclusive business and solidarity economy in terms of their instruments, missions, and roles in global value chains.
2) The EnJust Workshop 2022 was a highlight event in pursuing our aim to spearhead the development of a new strand in environmental justice research about the institutionalization of environment justice.

Phase 2:
1) COMPASS shall break new ground by systematically comparing the effects of certification, inclusive business and solidarity economy strategies on human well-being. It will push contemporary theories of inclusive value chains by exploring and tracing the mechanisms responsible for unexplained outcomes.
2) COMPASS shall develop a new strand of environmental justice research on private-sector strategies by analysing the rules through which organizations institutionalize environmental justice in their CS, IB, and SE strategies, and how this impacts decision-making about land use, investment, and trade.
3) COMPASS shall provide and test an innovative synthesis of theories explaining the links between well-being; environmental justice; CS, IB, and SE strategies; institutional regimes; and value chain structures.
Cocoa fruit