Almut Schilling-Vacaflor, Andrea Lenschow, Edward Challies, Benedetta Cotta, Jens Newig · 2021
World Development · Elsevier BV

Contextualizing certification and auditing: Soy certification and access of local communities to land and water in Brazil

The massive expansion of soy production in Brazil has contributed to a loss of access for local communities to land and water, particularly in highly dynamic frontier regions in the Cerrado. Soy certification standards like the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS) contain principles that are supposed to prevent such problems. In this paper, we examine the extent to which certification and auditing have served to protect local communities’ access to land and water in western Bahía state in the Cerrado’s Matopiba region. We draw on findings from field research in Brazil and western Bahía, 72 semi-structured interviews with corporate, state and civil society actors, and a systematic analysis of audit reports from RTRS-certified farms in Bahía.

We find that auditing practices are not effective in protecting the rights and access of local communities to land and water due to three inter-related sets of factors: 1) the business-dominated nature of the drafting and content of the RTRS standard, 2) the structural limitations and everyday practices of auditing, and 3) domestic and local contextual factors in Brazil and western Bahía.

This study aims to contribute to a re-thinking and re-assessment of certification and auditing practices and suggests that new approaches are required to govern global commodity chains in a more environmentally just way. We advocate for a locally embedded and community-sensitive perspective in research on certification and auditing, to complement previous research in the fields of critical political economy and sustainability governance.

Full publication is available on: DOI 10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105281

Contributors from our Network

Almut Schilling-Vacaflor

Almut Schilling-Vacaflor
University of Osnabrück

Almut Schilling‐Vacaflor, PhD, is a sociologist and anthropologist. She currently works as a Postdoc at Osnabrück University and is associated researcher of the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies. Her research deals with environmental governance, business and human rights, commodity chains, participation, extractive industries and the agribusiness in Latin America. Schilling-Vacaflor currently co-leads a research project on the private and public governance of soy and beef supply chains from Brazil, with a focus on deforestation and human rights.

Read more about Almut Schilling-Vacaflor ›

Share on:

Stay tuned on the latest news from our research network.