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Assessing the poverty impact of voluntary trade standards

female teaworkers pluckingtea tnfemale fairtradecoop ashantfarmer cocoabeans ashanti tSocial and environmental voluntary standards and labelling schemes, such as Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Utz Certified, are becoming increasingly important in agricultural trade. These schemes have expanded rapidly in recent years, covering new products and regions of the world and with greater volumes being traded.

But what is the poverty impact of these different standards? Given the expansion of these standards there is increased scrutiny of their impact at the local level and along the value chain, and a greater demand for evidence. There is currently a lively debate about what are the appropriate objectives, design and methods for such studies, to which the project team contributing during the course of this study.

female teaworkers nilgiris This project, funded by DFID, is a major four year study. The overall objective is to 'systematically examine the impact of voluntary social and environmental standards on poverty and livelihoods, particularly for the most disadvantaged workers and producers in developing countries'.

Using a broad definition of poverty, which encompasses not only incomes, but livelihood assets and empowerment, the project is employing a rigorous quasi-experimental design, and using both quantitative and qualitative research methods in equal measure. Cocoa and tea have been selected as the focal commodities, with studies conducted in Ecuador and Ghana (cocoa) and Kenya and India (tea). The sample covers smallholder, hired labour and outgrower situations and where possible, a number of different estates and producer groups have been included. Theories of change have been developed for the different standard systems being studied (Rainforest Alliance and FLO Fairtrade) drawing on the contents of their standards, but also the additional capacity building, advocacy or organisational business support they provide.

male teaworkers nilgiris tnAs well as assessing the levels of impact on poverty of workers and farmers (magnitude or scale, inclusion and exclusion, gender and social difference aspects) we are considering the types of impacts that are being achieved (social, economic, environmental, organisational), identifying the main factors driving impact and assessing wider impacts.

Following initial preparatory work, the baseline survey was conducted in 2010 and the final survey is planned for 2012. The findings will be analysed and published later in 2012. The project is being led by the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich and is being implemented in collaboration with:

  • Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)
  • Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR)
  • Matrix Development Consultants and PartPro (Kenya)
  • El Sistema de la Investigacion de la Problematica Agraria del Ecuador (SIPAE)

For further information please contact Valerie Nelson, Project Leader, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Adrienne Martin, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related documents

Assessing the poverty impact of voluntary sustainability standards, Conceptual and methodological framework by V Nelson, with Adrienne Martin, Carlos Barahona, Barry Pound and Claire Coote

photo1 tnteaworkers nilgiris tn

Final Reports

Final Technical Report: Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards (2013) by V. Nelson and A. Martin

Final Report: Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards in Ecuadorian cocoa (2013) by D. Cepeda, B. Pound, V. Nelson, G. Kajman, D. Cabascango, A. Martin, M. Chile, H. Posthumus, G. Caza, I. Mejia, F. Montenegro, L. Ruup, G. A. Velastegui, Y. Tiaguaro, M. Valverde and A. Ojeda.

Final Report: Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards: Fairtrade in Ghanaian cocoa (2013) by V. Nelson, K. Opoku, A. Martin, J. Bugri and H. Posthumus

Final Report: Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards: Indian tea (2013) by N. Lalitha, V. Nelson, A. Martin, H. Posthumus

Final Report: Poverty impact of social and environmental voluntary standard systems in Kenyan tea (2013) by T. Stathers and C. Gathuthi with advisory and statistical inputs from V. Nelson, A. Martin, H. Posthumus, U. Kleih and field assistance from E. Kamau, A. Gichohi, M. Kokonya, N. Umidha, V. Irimu and A. Muhoro

Working Papers

Final report: Literature review of sustainability standards and their poverty impact (2009) by M.K. Chan and B. Pound

Project Flyer: Assessing the Poverty Impact Of Social and Environmental Voluntary Standards

Policy Brief No 1: Assessing the Poverty Impact of Voluntary Sustainability Standards in Global Tea and Cocoa Supply Chains.


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