In this article, we analyse the role of regulatory intermediaries of the Better Cotton Initiative, a multi‐stakeholder initiative (MSI) in the global cotton value chain, with a regional focus on India and Pakistan. We conceptualize how the key roles of regulatory intermediaries — translating and verifying compliance with abstract rules in ways that make these rules practical and intelligible for target audiences (in this case, cotton farmers) — may be compromised by global value chain pressures and contradictory MSI requirements, thereby undermining the aim of mainstreaming sustainability standard systems. In other words, we theorize how MSIs can become subject to regulatory capture, serving the needs of global brands (for rapid upscaling, price minimization and verification) and sustainability standard bodies (contradictory demands for capacity building and compliance) at the expense of the intended beneficiaries — farmers at the base of global value chains. Based on an empirical analysis of the Better Cotton Initiative's implementing partners in Pakistan and India, we conclude that such weaknesses in standard implementation are likely to translate into poorer field‐level results in terms of ensuring the large‐scale, global mainstreaming of more sustainable commodity production sought by MSI practitioners.
|Tidsskrift||Development and Change|
|Status||E-pub ahead of print - 14 apr. 2021|