Adapting standards: the case of environmental management systems in Australia
Higgins, Vaughan, Dibden, Jacqui, and Cocklin, Chris (2010) Adapting standards: the case of environmental management systems in Australia. In: Calculating the Social: Standards and the Reconfiguration of Governing. Palgrave Macmillan, Houndmills, Hampshire, UK, pp. 167-184.
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Private standards and certification schemes provide an increasingly significant site of study for scholars interested in the restructuring of the agrifood sector. In the last ten years there has been a burgeoning literature on standards and certification schemes, focusing particularly on organic (Guthman, 2004), fair trade (Renard, 2005) and retailer-led schemes (Campbell et al, 2006; Hatanaka et al, 2005). The rise of private standards schemes has tended to be conceptualized as part of a broader global shift from public to private forms of governance as large international supermarket chains in particular, and to a lesser extent actors such as civil society organizations and social activists, exert increasing control over agri-food supply chains (Burch and Lawrence, 2007; Fulponi, 2006; Henson and Reardon, 2005) including the production practices of processors and producer-farmers (Hendrickson and James, 2005). This relates to the more general influence of what Cashore (2002, p. 504) terms 'Non-State Market-Driven' forms of governance that 'derive their policy-making authority not from the state, but from the manipulation of global markets and attention to customer preferences'.
While this literature is significant in drawing attention to the shifting power relations within agri-food supply chains from producers and processors to supermarkets, it gives little attention to how standards are implemented and adapted, and the role of state agencies, sub-state or regional authorities and producers in this process. Drawing upon insights from the literature on governmentality, this chapter examines the different ways in which a private standards scheme - environmental management systems (EMS), based on the international standard ISO14001- has been implemented at a national, regional and industry level in Australian agriculture. We argue that the application of EMS has depended on alliances between a diverse range of agencies and actors - both public and private. Moreover, making EMS work at an industry and regional level has involved the adaptation of this standards scheme so that it accords with sectoral and local priorities rather than striving to meet the full requirements of the international ISO14001 standard. Prior to elaborating our argument, it is necessary to explore briefly the merits and limitations of the existing literature on agri-food standards, and the ways in which a governmentality perspective might assist in addressing existing gaps in knowledge.
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