v1 n5: Grabs Responds to Bennett on Voluntary Sustainability Certifications

Moving Forward on the Point of Voluntary Sustainability Certifications, by Janina Grabs

AN INVITED RESPONSE TO Bennett, E. A. 2021. Voluntary Sustainability Certifications: What is the Point? Global Justice and Human Rights Journal Review 1(4), 18-23.


In her review, Bennett asks ‘what is the point’ of voluntary sustainability standards, if it is not to improve sustainability on the ground. While my book’s problem-solving approach did not yield itself to answering this question, I introduce some recent answers to this question that is currently discussed in a vibrant academic debate. In addition, I defend the usefulness of voluntary simplicity as a way forward and suggest two additional future research streams that may help to tackle systemic sustainability problems in global commodity trade.

To download the full PDF, click here: Grabs Responds to Bennett


Janina Grabs is Assistant Professor of Business and Society at Universitat Ramon Llull, ESADE Business School. Email: janina.grabs@esade.edu

v1 n4: Bennett on Voluntary Sustainability Certifications

Voluntary Sustainability Certifications: What is the Point?, by Elizabeth A Bennett

A COMMENTARY ON J. Grabs (2020), Selling Sustainability Short? The Private Governance of Labor and the Environment in the Coffee Sector (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)


Voluntary sustainability certifications aim to achieve human rights objectives and sustainable development goals by creating rigorous standards, enforcing them, and labeling the resulting products as “ethical.” Tens of thousands of workers depend on certifications for decent wages, equitable opportunities, and safe working conditions. If certifications do not achieve these goals and reforming them is resource intensive and highly improbable, what is the point?

To download the full PDF, click here: Bennett on Grabs


Dr. Elizabeth A. Bennett is a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights Policy Research (Cambridge, MA, US) and the Joseph M. Ha Associate Professor of International Affairs at Lewis & Clark College (Portland, Oregon, US). Dr. Bennett’s research focuses on voluntary sustainability standards, the fair trade movement, worker empowerment, and economic justice and is published in the American Journal of SociologyWorld DevelopmentSustainable DevelopmentAgriculture and Human Values, Globalizations, Environmental Politics, and the Social Enterprise Journal. Her current project “Bold Claims, Low Wages: Voluntary Sustainability Certifications, Living Wages, and Globalized Supply Chains” examines how voluntary labor standards have (and have not) supported living wages. Dr. Bennett serves on the Academic Advisory Council for the United Nations Forum on Sustainability Standards.

v1 n3: Baldez on Approving Human Rights Treaties

Signing, Negotiating, Opting Out, and Starting Over: A New Approach to Approval of Human Rights Treaties, by Lisa Baldez

A COMMENTARY ON A. L. COMSTOCK (2021), Committed to Rights: UN Human Rights Treaties and Legal Paths for Commitment and Compliance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


While much of the research on human rights treaties focuses on ratification, countries can also commit to treaties through signature, accession, and succession. Audrey L. Comstock identifies these four types of approval as distinct “legal commitment paths.” In her forthcoming book, Committed to Rights, Comstock derives thoughtful hypotheses about the ways that each of these options shapes a country’s performance on human rights and subjects them to qualitative and quantitative tests. In this essay, I review each of these paths in turn, evaluating the claims that Comstock makes and illustrating her logic in light of an analogy between approval of human rights treaties and the process of drafting diversity statements in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Lisa Baldez is Professor of Government and Latin American, Latino and Caribbean Studies at Dartmouth College and the author of Defying Convention: US Resistance to the UN Treaty on Women’s Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

v1 n2: Brooks on Paying to Tackle Pollution

Who Should Pay to Tackle Pollution, by Thom Brooks

A COMMENTARY ON A. Zahar (2018), “The Contested Core of Climate Law,” Climate Law 8(3–4): 244–60. https://doi.org/10.1163/18786561-00803009


In the efforts to combat climate change, there are a growing number of scholars who claim that the pollution costs should be paid by the polluters in what has become known as “the polluter pays principle.” Zahar defends this principle as the best way to tackle the associated harms that polluting creates. This comment raises questions about how this principle might work, and compares it with the alternative approaches of the beneficiary pays principle and the principle we should pay polluters to cease polluting. It is argued that none solve the problem even if some can be part of a future solution that pushes us to rethink how we can best achieve global justice.

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Thom Brooks is Dean and Professor of Law and Government at Durham University’s Law School and an advisor to the UK Labour Party

v1 n1: Nayak on the Paradoxes of Migrants’ Human Rights

Negotiating the Paradoxes of Migrants’ Human Rights, by Meghana V. Nayak

A COMMENTARY ON S. Abji (2018), “Postnational Acts of Citizenship: How an Anti-Border Politics Is Shaping Feminist Spaces of Service Provision in Toronto, Canada,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 20(4): 501–23. https://doi.org/10.1080/14616742.2018.1480901

Abstract: Salina Abji’s work examines feminist service providers who work with non- status migrant survivors of gender violence. While these advocates assist their clients in accessing state rights, they also challenge the state’s right to decide who belongs. I offer a critical reading that suggests two key contributions of her essay. First, she illustrates the intersection of multiple paradoxes of human rights that are too often analyzed separately, and second, she shows how activists negotiate the tensions produced by the contradictions of human rights. I also draw on her scholarship to think about advocate-migrant relationships and the role of indigenous feminist politics.

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Meghana Nayak, PhD is Professor of Political Science and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies at Pace University, focuses on the gender violence, migration politics, and feminist international relations theory, and is author of Who is Worthy of Protection? Gender-Based Asylum and US Immigration Politics (Oxford University Press).


Welcome to the new home of the Global Justice and Human Rights Journal Review (or “GJHR”), a new, open-access, peer-reviewed journal review launching in summer of 2020. Stay tuned as we prepare to launch!

GJHR is edited by Amit Ron and Heather Smith-Cannoy at Arizona State University. It is published by the nonprofit Journal Review Foundation.

For more information, contact: amit.ron@asu.edu or Heather.Smith-Cannoy@asu.edu