Research webinars

Research webinars

Research Webinar 33: Social and environmental monitoring of the ASC® certification in the south of Chile.

<p>The growth and expansion of salmon production in Chile have been exponential in the last 30 years. In 2015, WWF Chile initiated a study aimed at designing and validating a methodological framework for monitoring expected changes in environmental and social issues. The objective was to identify strengths and gaps in ASC certification of salmon production and to propose recommendations for the effective implementation of ASC certification in Chile. This webinar presents the results of the study after three years of project implementation and shares recommendations for how ASC certification can have a more visible positive impact in the region.</p>

Research Webinar 32: The Impact of International Cooperative Initiatives on Biodiversity

<p>Traditionally, governments are seen as responsible for biodiversity protection. But more and more, initiatives of private, non-state actors show a large potential to contribute to biodiversity conservation and enhancement. In this webinar, Mark Oorschot (PBL) presents the findings of the report ‘The Impact of International Cooperative Initiatives on Biodiversity’. In the report, several international cooperative initiatives were examined, mostly forest-related initiatives. Results contribute to quantifying the potential global contribution of sustainable forest management (SFM) certification to forest protection and biodiversity improvement.</p>

Research Webinar 31: Understanding of the Conservation Impacts of Voluntary Sustainability Standards

<p>In 2012, a committee of international experts from academia, business, and civil society published ‘Toward Sustainability: The Roles and Limitations of Certification’. In addition to describing the history, key features and actors in voluntary standard systems (VSS), the report summarised the<br /> state of knowledge regarding VSS use and their potential to achieve conservation and other goals. It<br /> also enumerated existing evidence about VSS impacts, finding few studies and weak study designs.<br /> Since then, considerable effort has been made to fill research gaps. This webinar presents the<br /> paper ‘Conservation Impacts of Voluntary Sustainability standards: How Has our Understanding of<br /> conservation impacts changed since the 2012 Publication of “Toward Sustainability: The Roles and<br /> Limitations of Certification”?’ to reflect on new VSS studies in the agricultural, forestry, marine<br /> fisheries and aquaculture sectors and revisit the issue of the state of knowledge about VSS<br /> conversation impacts as well as to consider how best to advance VSS impacts research. This<br /> research is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation through the Meridian Institute to<br /> support the work of the Supply Chain Sustainability Research Fund.</p>

Research Webinar 30: Do private coffee standards ‘walk the talk’ in improving socio-economic and environmental sustainability?

<p>This ISEAL research webinar presents the results and learnings from a research study entitled '<a href="">Do Private Sustainability Standards walk the talk in improving economic and environmental sustainability</a>?' by Vanderhaegen et al. published in 2018 in the Global Environment Change Journal. The paper analyses the on-farm socio-economic and environmental implications of a double Fairtrade - Organic (FT-Org) and a triple UTZ - Rainforest Alliance -4C (UTZ-RA-4C) smallholder coffee certification scheme over a study area covering five of the eight districts of the Mt. Elgon region a main coffee producing area in Uganda. The webinar highlights the mixed results from this research and case study site whereby sustainability standards in focus were seen to have a positive impact on some dimensions of coffee sustainability but not on others. The discussion in the webinar highlighted interesting insights for standards practitioners and researchers regarding the research methodology adopted in the study and the issue of multiple certification in general. The discussion also raised the challenge of generalisation of results - to what extent does a study on one case in one region allow for a more generalised verdict on the overall impacts of standards at a global scale? While the researchers advise standards to take care in the claims they make, the risk of over-generalisation of results by researchers on the basis of one or a very small sample was also raised in the dialogue.</p>

Research webinar 29: The Systemic Impacts of Voluntary Sustainability Standards

<p>VSS are known to have a positive impact in areas where certified entities operate but VSS can also influence the enabling environment. There is not yet a lot of evidence of these so-called systemic impacts of VSS on the enabling environment. This webinar presents a white paper, carried out by Aidenvironment and commissioned by WWF and ISEAL Alliance, which aims to contribute to this evidence gap as well as provide a working definition for the concept of systemic impacts.</p>

Research webinar 28: Evaluation of the Impacts of Sustainability Standards on Smallholder Coffee Farmers in Southern Sumatra

<p>In this webinar, the results at the mid-point of a 5-year mixed methods study that considers the impacts and perceptions of certification-linked sustainability programs and market access in smallholder coffee value chains in the southern regions of Sumatra, Indonesia are presented. Quantitative aspects of the project create evidence for the impact of such programs at household level, in connection with theory of change, and parsing out impact pathways. Qualitative aspects of the project provide insights from ethnographic case studies at village level, broader processes of rural development and poverty alleviation, and a larger-sample study of farmer perceptions of sustainability programs across a number of exporters and geographies.</p>

Research Webinar 27: Evaluation of UTZ certification contribution to the socio-economic situation of cocoa famers in Ivory Coast

<p>This webinar presents an evaluation of the contribution of certification and related activities of UTZ and traders to the socio-economic situation of cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast. The aim of this study undertaken in 2017 was to analyze contributions of UTZ certification and trader interventions to cocoa farm-households using a mixed methods approach. The outcome areas the study focuses on are: increased yields, improved income, improved working and living conditions, and better protection of&nbsp;water and soil. The study also focused on elaborating on the impact of UTZ at farm household level, interventions and changes at the level of producer groups, traders and service providers. The study is an endline comparing data to a 2012-2013 baseline study conducted by Wageningen Economic Research in Ivory Coast for UTZ, IDH, Cargill and Solidaridad.</p>

Research Webinar 26: Where are commodity crops certified, and what does it mean for conservation and poverty alleviation?

<p>The coverage of certification schemes has increased dramatically over the last decade. However, little is known about where sustainability schemes operate and whether certified lands are best located for conserving the world’s most important biodiversity and benefiting the most vulnerable producers. To examine these questions the paper 'Where are commodity crops certified, and what does it mean for conservation and poverty alleviation?' developed the first global map of commodity crop certification, synthesizing data from over one million farms. This webinar discussed the patterns revealed by this mapping process, and how the impact of sustainability standards could be increased by identifying places where it would be most beneficial to strengthen, consolidate, and expand certification. How certification schemes can benefit from better spatial data collection was also discussed.</p>

Research Webinar 25: How does agricultural certification influence sustainable farming practices over time?

<p>Evidence as to whether sustainability standards are effective in changing farm management is still scarce. This webinar presents the learnings of the study ‘How does agricultural certification<br />influence sustainable farming practices over time?’ which assesses compliance with the Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard (RA/SAN) of 576 certified organizations, representing more than 800,000 individual farmers and more than 1.5 million hectares. These certified farm organizations are present in major growing regions of coffee, cocoa, tea, and banana, i.e. four of the most significant tropical export crops. The paper examines farm compliance scores at the certified organizations for key sustainability categories, at the most recent audit, over time, and in response to various predictor variables.</p>

Research Webinar 24: Causes of forest fires and RSPO certification effect on deforestation and fires in Indonesia.

<p>In this webinar Russell Toth (Assistant<br />Professor, University of Sydney) first presents a paper on the economic and political causes of Indonesia's forest fires. The paper utilizes data on fires, rainfall, forests, and agricultural conditions and prices over 2000-2016 to provide causal evidence on two prospective channels and provide insights toward efforts to predict and prevent the fires. This first presentation sets the scene around whether certification is a viable intervention to help prevent the fires. The second presentation is led by Kim Carlson (Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii) who presents a research piece that explores RSPO certification effect on deforestation and fires. Many corporations have pledged to eliminate tropical deforestation from their supply chains by purchasing only certified “sustainable” products. To evaluate whether certification fulfills such pledges, the article applies statistical analyses to satellite-based estimates of tree cover loss to infer the causal impact of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification on deforestation and fire within Indonesian oil palm plantations.</p>

Research Webinar 23: Environmental-economic benefits and trade-offs on certified coffee farms

Research webinar with Jeremy Haggar (Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich) and Gabriela Soto (Committee on Sustainability Assessment) on the environmental and economic benefits and trade-offs on certified coffee farms. This webinar presented on Wednesday 29th November 2017 looks at findings on economic and environmental outcomes on certified coffee farms in Nicaragua and economic outcomes in Costa Rica and Guatemala, evaluated using the COSA assessment framework. It also explores how certification outcomes vary relative to the typology of farms that participate and the country the farm is based in, as well as how far price premiums can mitigate the significant trade-off between income and on-farm tree diversity.

Research Webinar 22: Impacts of certification in cotton in India and Pakistan

Research webinar with Peter Lund-Thomsen from Copenhagen Business School on the effects of certification on farmers’ incomes, workers’ conditions and environmental pollution on cotton farms in India and Pakistan. This webinar, held on 16th November 2017, analyzes the effects of Better Cotton Initiative on farmers’ incomes, workers’ conditions and environmental pollution on cotton farms in the provinces of Sindh and Punjab, Pakistan and the states of Punjab and Gujarat, India. It uses a multi-scalar approach to look at effects at farm-level, local-level, state-level and national-level and explore to what extent these differences can be understood in relation to how cotton growing regions are tied into global production networks, pre-existing institutional support networks, and the varied geographical and climatic conditions in which the projects are located.

Research Webinar 21: Effects of sustainability standards along the supply chain

Research webinar with Jan Willem Molenaar from Aidenvironment on the impact of sustainability standards on trading relationships throughout the supply chain. Many initiatives on sustainable production and trade target producers or workers and tend to ignore the quality of trading relationships in the supply chain. This webinar, held on 2nd November, presents a study that explores the impact of Fairtrade’s supply chain interventions on trading relationships throughout the cocoa, tea, banana and cut flower supply chains. It looks at the impact of sustainability standards interventions on the capacity of producers to invest in sustainability and safeguards against unfair trading practices for upstream businesses. It also considers some challenges, such as how to ensure that there is sufficient total value for a fair share at each stage of the value chain, as pressure on prices and margins throughout the value chain increases and the influence of market dynamics and public policy on trading relationships

Research Webinar 20: Added value of certification for farmers in delivering more sustainable farming

Research webinar with Matt Reed from the Countryside and Community Research Institute on the added value of certification for farmers in delivering more sustainable farming. The focus of this webinar, presented on 19th October, is a recent report on the added value that LEAF Marque certification provides to farmers who are members of the system. It investigates the system’s influence on business benefits, such as savings and access to markets, improvements in the farmed environment and control of risks to the farm's operation. It also looks at how certification had impacted on management information, peer networking, contact with customers and other business people.

Research webinar 19: Lessons learned from socio-environmental certification for agriculture in Brazil

Research webinar with Luis Fernando Guedes Pinto from Imaflora on lessons learned from socio-environmental certification for agriculture in Brazil. This webinar held on 28th September 2017 presented the learnings of 20 years of development and implementation of standard and certification systems in Brazilian agriculture. It will summarize several studies, reports and institutional learnings of Imaflora regarding continuous improvement, traceability, the role of certification to legal compliance, the economic dimension of implementing standards. It will address the strengths and weakness of standards in contributing to the implementation of sustainability in agriculture, how it connects to other governance interventions and speculate about its future. Due to technical difficulties we are unable to share the webinar recording but you can find the slides here.

Research Webinar 18: Assessing the Landscape of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives

Research webinar with Ben Collins and Madeline Hung from MSI Integrity on standard-setting multi-stakeholder initiatives and their scope, governance, and operations. In this webinar, held on 21st September 2017, the growth and industry spread of standard-setting multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) is assessed. It examines how these MSIs are governed and the extent to which they include different stakeholder groups. The analysis looks at how MSIs engage, or fail to engage the workers and communities that are most affected by the standards they set and explores if MSIs incorporate basic institutional elements necessary to effectively set and enforce their own standards.

Research webinar 17: Heterogeneity and trade-offs in the impacts of forestry certification in Indonesia

This research webinar is with Daniela Miteva from Ohio State University on forestry certification in Indonesia. Using rigorous empirical designs, this webinar, held on 13th July 2017, presents evidence of the effectiveness of forestry certification on a host of environmental and social outcomes in Indonesia and identify where tradeoffs between the different outcomes occur.

Research Webinar 16: Socio-economic effects of certification schemes for sustainable agricultural production

Research webinar with Carlos Oya and Florian Schaefer from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) on the socio-economic effects of certification schemes for sustainable agricultural production. The rise of voluntary standards and their associated certification for agricultural products is a well-established phenomenon in the contemporary dynamics of agricultural trade. This webinar, held on 15th June 2017, presents a systematic review which explores the extent to which, and under what conditions, social sustainability standards for agricultural products results in higher levels of socio-economic wellbeing for agricultural producers and workers in low and middle income countries. Intended and unintended effects are explored as well as what barriers and facilitators exist to socio-economic outcomes.

Research Webinar 15: Certification for independent oil palm smallholders: preliminary results on barriers and benefits

Research webinar with Petra Rietberg from Wageningen University and Research on socially and environmentally sustainable oil palm. The Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Oil palm Research (SEnSOR) programme is an integrated multi-disciplinary research programme designed to fill key knowledge gaps in testing and developing the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria for sustainability in oil palm agriculture. This webinar, held on 25th May 2017, presents research outputs from this project focused on social issues, such as costs and benefits of certification for independent smallholder palm oil producers and barriers to certification.

Research webinar 14: Social and environmental standards contributing to more sustainable value chains

Research webinar with Philip Schleifer (University of Amsterdam), Regina Taimasova (International Trade Centre) and Matteo Fiorini (European University Institute) on how standards can contribute to more sustainable value chains. Social and environmental standards have increasingly become a tool of choice in international value chains, covering products from crops to electronics and services. In this webinar, presented on 4th May 2017, a joint ITC-EUI report which aims at uncovering factors making environmental and social standards producer-friendly is presented. The institutional design of standards and how this can make standards more accessible to producers is discussed, as well as how standard-setting organizations and value chain players can integrate small and medium enterprises and small farmers into sustainable value chains.

Research Webinar 13: Benefits of eco-labelling in developing countries

Research webinar with Anna Carlson on the benefits of eco-labelling in developing countries. Eco-labelling (or environmental certification) is often promoted as a regulatory instrument capable of incentivizing sustainable resource use, even in the absence of stringent government environmental regulations. This webinar held on 20th April 2017, presents meta-synthesis research assessing the type and extent of producer benefits reported in case studies of forestry and marine certification, in developing countries, and whether these benefits can justify the cost of certification. Types of benefits studied range from price premiums and market access to less tangible benefits such as learning, governance, community empowerment, and reputational benefits.

Research webinar 12: Standards and the blue economy

Research webinar with Jason Potts from the International Institute for Sustainable Development on sustainability standards and the blue economy. The State of Sustainability Initiatives (SSI) project is a multi-institutional effort to understand and report on market-based approaches to sustainable commodity production and trade. This webinar, held on 6th April 2017, presents a pioneering effort to assess the state of the ‘blue economy’ – specifically focusing on major marine and freshwater sustainability-oriented certification initiatives. It will also present how the analytical framework devised and used for a number of land-based commodities has been adapted to ocean wild fish and aquaculture.

Research webinar 11: Civil society organisations and the shaping of labour standards in emerging economies

This webinar offers insights from a major research project at the University of Manchester, UK examining the role of various actors (firms, civil society and the State) in shaping labour standards in the ‘Rising Powers’ of Brazil, China and India. This webinar, held on 1st December 2016 at 2pm – 3pm UK time focuses on the role of civil society in shaping the discourse and implementation of standards within global production networks in each of these three emerging economies. The results of the research illuminate the ways in which trade unions, NGOs and consumer associations have engaged with standards as developed in the global North as well as the extent to which they seek to challenge these standards, or to develop new standards within markets in the global South.

Research webinar 10: Assessing the additionality of the Round Table on Responsible Soy and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

In this webinar, Rachael Garrett (University of Boston) examines the potential additionality of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in mitigating conversion of native vegetation to cropland. Multi-stakeholder roundtables offering certification programs are promising voluntary governance mechanisms to address sustainability issues associated with international agricultural supply chains. Yet, little is known about whether roundtable certifications confer additionality, the benefits of certification beyond what would be expected from policies and practices currently in place. This webinar, held on 10th November 2016, examines the potential additionality of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in mitigating conversion of native vegetation to cropland. We also examine the effective targeting of smallholder producers and targeting adoption to regions with low levels of environmental governance and high rates of forest-to-cropland conversion.

Research webinar 9: Voluntary sustainability standards and effectiveness: Mapping the field and issues

This webinar, presented by a team from KU Leuven explores dimensions of effectiveness relating to voluntary sustainability standards, how they interrelate (including trade-offs between dimensions) and the challenges involved in assessing effectiveness. The issue of the effectiveness of voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) is high on the agenda of standards organizations, donors, international organizations and academics. However, the concept of effectiveness is quite elusive and captures many different dimensions. In this webinar, held on 27th October 2016, participants are exposed to these different dimensions of effectiveness, how they interrelate (including trade-offs between dimensions) and the challenges involved in assessing effectiveness. This webinar provides a comprehensive overview of the debate on the effectiveness of VSS.

Research webinar 8: Fairtrade certified cocoa in West Africa: Taking stock and key issues for moving ahead

This webinar, from CGIAR researchers, explores the context in which certification operates in Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, as well as the capacities of recently established certified cocoa cooperatives and their members. As cocoa certification expands in West Africa, important questions arise in relation to the capacity of cocoa cooperatives and farmers to benefit; and with respect to impactful ways for sustainability standards to engage with these resource-poor stakeholders in response to the constraints they face. This webinar, held on 6th October 2016 offers insights into these questions by exploring the overall context in which Fairtrade certification operates in Ghana and CDI, as well as the capacities of recently established Fairtrade-certified cocoa cooperatives and their members.

Research webinar 7: Compliance processes in transnational private governance: The case of marine sustainability standards

This webinar presents a research project that examines compliance processes in transnational private sustainability governance, using marine sustainability standards as a case study. This webinar, held on 22nd September 2016, reports on a research project that examines compliance processes in transnational private sustainability governance. Based on the publicly available assessment report of fisheries starting the certification process with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), it examines the influence of characteristics of fisheries, the MSC’s compliance verification process, and factors in the external environment on the assessment duration. In this way, it aims to gain insights into the role of regulatory design and learning at the level of the standard setting organization, the audit organizations and the individual assessors.

Research webinar 6: The true price of production of cocoa, coffee, tea and cotton and the role of certified products

This webinar looks at the invisible costs involved in the production of soft commodities cocoa, coffee, tea and cotton. It includes interesting insights on what differentiates certified products from conventional products. The production of soft commodities cocoa, coffee, tea and cotton leads to societal costs, such as underpayment of workers and soil degradation. One of the barriers for farmers, traders, retailers and consumers to reduce those costs is that they are invisible. Together with IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) True Price, a social enterprise specialized in impact measurement and valuation, has calculated the external costs of producing these commodities. During this webinar, presented on Thursday 8th September 2016, the key results and findings of this study will be presented. These include interesting insights on what differentiates certified products from conventional products and how this type of research can contribute to making global commodity supply chains more sustainable.

Research webinar 5: How to improve the effectiveness of sustainability certification standards

This webinar, as part of the Research Webinar Series, presents research on how sustainability certification schemes can help deliver positive outcomes in the mining and minerals sector. Sustainability certification schemes and standards are one key means for civil society actors to hold mineral companies and governments to account and for companies and governments to demonstrate that they are operating responsibly. This webinar shares research exploring the potential role these initiatives can play to effectively deliver positive outcomes and foster local development.

Research webinar 4: Market standards and ecosystem services

This webinar highlights results of a number of desk-studies on the potential costs and benefits of certified production of resources like soya, palm oil, cacao and tropical wood. Producing resources according to international market standards holds the promise of delivering several benefits to society, and part of these benefits may be provided by natural capital. The aim of the constructed cost-benefit analyses was to not only take financial aspects for the producer into account, but also the societal costs and benefits of making better use of ecosystems in the production landscape that deliver so-called ecosystem services to society. The modelled results show that there are several potential benefits of ecosystem services for different stakeholders, and at different spatial levels. However, the financial returns for producers are often modest or even absent. So there is a need for complementary governance options for better capturing the values of ecosystem services. Standard systems can aim at better protecting valuable ecosystem services by more explicitly addressing ecosystem services in their criteria, and setting up monitoring systems for measuring their impacts on ecosystem services and their societal values.

Research webinar 3: Comparing the breadth and depth of seafood certification programs

As part of the Research Webinar Series, this webinar presents research which compared three national and three voluntary shrimp aquaculture certification programs for their adherence to environmental criteria, assessing the breadth and depth of the six certification programs. This webinar, held on May 19th 2016, presented research comparing three national and three voluntary shrimp aquaculture certification programs for their adherence to environmental criteria. Beginning with the FAO code for ecolabelling, it assessed the breadth (how many points of the code were measured) and depth (the rigor of the metric) of the six certification programs. The research found breadth and depth to scale, and that there was a great deal of overlap between the voluntary programs. This work can help to understand the relative merits of different programs, and how to position programs for maximum effectiveness.

Research webinar 2: Exploring the design of social sustainability standards

This webinar, as part of ISEAL's webinar series on latest research on standards’ impacts, presents research findings that highlight the key differences between measurement systems; those focused on assessing compliance and those emphasizing continuous improvement across the supply chain. In this context, the research explores the role of the standard setter, variation in approaches to assessing social sustainability and key areas of shared good practice. The webinar, held on 28th April 2016, shares the findings of recent empirical research on the design of measurement systems used to assess the social sustainability of global supply chains. Data collected from ten international voluntary assessment initiatives has been analysed using the Deming cycle of plan-do-check-act. The findings highlight key differences between measurement systems as some appeared to be focused on assessing compliance whereas others emphasised continuous improvement across the supply chain. Standards focused exclusively on compliance demonstrated a weak link between the check and act stages of the cycle. Those focused on continuous improvement adopted a longer timeframe of assessment and made explicit the goal of improving labour practices across the entire supply chain. The findings raise questions about the role of the standard setter; is it to act as a watchdog, collaborative partner or both? The findings also highlight the variation in approaches to assessing social sustainability, thus demonstrating that there is no standard practice for assessment. Whilst differing approaches to assessment may be appropriate, the discussion will explore whether there are key areas of similarity whereby good practice can be shared.

Research webinar 1: The impact of sustainability standards on smallholders

As part of ISEAL's series of webinars on latest research on standards’ impacts, this webinar explores the differences standards make, using research from the banana, cocoa, coffee, tea and avocado sectors. Making international supply chains more sustainable is one of the ways to boost rural development for smallholders. As an applied scientific research institute it is LEI’s goal to conduct rigorous impact evaluations which provide insights to customers. One very crucial question customers, and society at large face is: what differences do standards make? This webinar, held on 7th April 2016 presents evidence from a range of research and evaluation studies that have been conducted in the banana, cocoa, coffee, tea and avocado supply chains to answer this question. The team from LEI also share their insights on the methodology and design principles that they think are needed to guide impact evaluations in this field of work.