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Stefano Ponte

Copenhagen Business School

Stefano Ponte is a Professor of International Political Economy and Director of the Centre for Business and Development Studies at Copenhagen Business School. His research focuses on governance dynamics, and economic and environmental upgrading trajectories in global value chains — especially in developing countries and in Africa. He is particularly interested in how sustainability standards, labels and certifications shape agro-food value chains, and in how different forms of partnerships affect sustainability outcomes.
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publication
Environmental upgrading in global value chains

Responding to stakeholder pressure, firms are increasingly challenged to reduce their environmental impacts. This chapter reviews the potential upgrading trajectories for firms engaged in global value chains (GVCs) to effectively reduce the impacts on the environment of all activities linked to their products - not just those that are carried out in house - and the major drivers of these investments. We also examine the role of global lead firms in fostering the greening of GVCs and the different governing approaches that they have adopted. Furthermore, we look at different forms of supplier agency in these processes, both in the Global North and the Global South. Finally, we identify the key challenges related to the reduction of environmental impacts along GVCs and discuss limits and opportunities for the joint achievement of economic and environmental outcomes.

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publication
Handbook on Global Value Chains

Global value chains (GVCs) are a key feature of the global economy in the 21st century. They show how international investment and trade create cross-border production networks that link countries, firms and workers around the globe. This Handbook describes how GVCs arise and vary across industries and countries, and how they have evolved over time in response to economic and political forces. With chapters written by leading interdisciplinary scholars, the Handbook unpacks the key concepts of GVC governance and upgrading, and explores policy implications for advanced and developing economies alike.

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The evolution of power in the global coffee value chain and production network

The configurations of global value chains and production networks are constantly changing, leading to new trajectories and geographical distributions of value creation and capture. In this article, we offer a 40-year evolutionary perspective on power and governance in the global coffee value chain and production network. We identify three distinct phases that are characterized by different power dynamics, governance setups and distributional configurations. We find that the kinds of power exercised along the coffee chain have changed, but also that the underlying power inequities between Northern buyers and Southern producers have remained fundamentally unaltered.

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publication
Green Capital Accumulation: Business and Sustainability Management in a World of Global Value Chains

Tackling climate change and other environmental crises entails a critical reflection on processes and outcomes that are behind sustainability management by business. Sustainability has become a commodity itself, to be traded, bought, sold and managed like all others. How lead firms in global value chains (GVCs) address sustainability issues has become a key competitive element and a source of value creation and capture – facilitating a process of ‘green capital accumulation’. Sustainability management is emerging as a fourth key capitalist dynamic in addition to cost minimisation, flexibility and speed (Coe and Yeung 2015) – leading corporations to devise new spatial, organisational and technological ‘fixes’ to ensure continued capital accumulation. Public actors and civil society groups can address this situation, but their strategies need to be informed by the daily practices, power relations and governance structures of GVCs. Sustainability orchestration by these actors is more likely to succeed when: it employs appropriate combinations of directive and facilitative instruments that reinforce each other; improves issue visibility; provides incentives that facilitate the alignment of private and public sector interests; and leverages specific pressure points at key nodes of GVCs.

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publication
The ‘factory manager dilemma’: Purchasing practices and environmental upgrading in apparel global value chains

Economic and environmental upgrading in global value chains are intertwined processes. The existing global value chain literature has so far articulated the relationships between economic and social upgrading but has only recently started to explore the challenges of environmental upgrading from the perspective of suppliers in the Global South. In this article, we examine the ‘factory manager dilemma’ as a way of conceptualizing the purchasing practices and environmental upgrading requirements faced by suppliers in their dealings with lead firms in global value chains. Specifically, we analyze the environmental upgrading challenges experienced by Pakistani apparel firms. We conclude that Pakistani apparel suppliers are required both to absorb the consequences of global buyers’ unsustainable purchasing practices and to reduce their own profitability – all in the name of sustainability.

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