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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.
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publication
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.

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publication
Hardening foreign corporate accountability through mandatory due diligence in the European Union? New trends and persisting challenges

The negative externalities of global commodity chains and existing governance gaps have received wide scholarly attention. Indeed, many sectors including forest-risk commodities (FRCs) like soy and beef from Brazil remain largely unregulated. This article analyzes ongoing policy-making processes at European Union level to adopt new regulations for reducing accountability gaps: one regulation of FRCs and one general, cross-sectoral directive on human rights and environmental due diligence. This article draws on and aims to contribute to previous research into foreign corporate accountability, therein analytically distinguishing between input, output, and surrogate accountability. This study shows that new policies will likely be more comprehensive than previous supply chain regulations, while their specific institutional design and stringency are highly contested. More in general, we argue that for hardening corporate accountability, due diligence politics will need to confront important governance challenges that have limited the potential of previous regulations, such as a lack of consequentiality of reporting obligations, weak state monitoring, limited stakeholder involvement, and difficulties to establish legal liability.

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publication
Putting the French Duty of Vigilance Law in Context: Towards Corporate Accountability for Human Rights Violations in the Global South?

AbstractThe adoption of the French Duty of Vigilance law has been celebrated as a milestone for advancing the transnational business and human rights regime. The law can contribute to harden corporate accountability by challenging the “separation principle” of transnational companies and by obligating companies to report on their duty of vigilance. However, the question of whether the law actually contributes to human rights and environmental protection along global supply chains requires empirically grounded research that connects processes in home and host state countries. This paper contributes to such a new research agenda by linking political ecology literature and empirical insights from the Global South to research on due diligence regulations. With reference to field research data on contestations between the oil and gas company Total E&P and indigenous communities in Bolivia, I argue that the burden of proof and contestations over valid knowledge represent major obstacles when trying to establish legal liability.

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