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How Can High-Biodiversity Coffee Make It to the Mainstream Market? The Performativity of Voluntary Sustainability Standards and Outcomes for Coffee Diversification

Journal article
Authors Cecilia Solér
Cecilia Sandström
Hanna Skoog
Published in Environmental Management
Volume 59
Issue 2
Pages 230–248
ISSN 0364-152X
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Business Administration
Centre for Business in Society
Department of Business Administration, Marketing Group
Pages 230–248
Language en
Keywords Voluntary sustainability standards, Biodiversity, Marketing performativity, Coffee certification
Subject categories Environmental Sciences, Business Administration


This article investigates the outcomes of mainstream coffee voluntary sustainability standards for high-biodiversity coffee diversification. By viewing voluntary sustainability standards certifications as performative marketing tools, we address the question of how such certification schemes affect coffee value creation based on unique biodiversity conservation properties in coffee farming. To date, the voluntary sustainability standards literature has primarily approached biodiversity conservation in coffee farming in the context of financial remuneration to coffee farmers. The performative analysis of voluntary sustainability standards certification undertaken in this paper, in which such certifications are analyzed in terms of their effect on mutually reinforcing representational, normalizing and exchange practices, provides an understanding of coffee diversification potential as dependent on standard criteria and voluntary sustainability standards certification as branding tools. We draw on a case of high-biodiversity, shade-grown coffee-farming practice in Kodagu, South-West India, which represents one of the world’s biodiversity “hotspots”.

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