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.

Published by

Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s