Reviewing the impact of sustainability certification on food security in developing countries

Lead author: Philip Schleifer       Year: 2020       Methodology: Literature review

ISO R&I Team Summary

The article identifies the main causal mechanisms that link sustainability certification to local food security. Existing evidence points to a positive, albeit weak and highly context-dependent, relationship between certification, farmers' income, and local food security. Certification's impact on food security via its effects on land use, land rights, and gender equality remains poorly understood. The article ends by calling for an interdisciplinary research agenda on the relationships between sustainability certification and food security.


Publication Abstract

What is the impact of sustainability certification on food security in developing countries? This article explores the issue through a systematic review of the extant scholarship, complemented by a selective review of key studies examining the wider socio-economic effects of certification that may affect food security indirectly. To guide the analysis, we identify three main causal mechanisms – economic, land use and land rights, and gender effects – that link certification to local food security. Our review finds that food security remains a blind spot in the literature on certification impacts. Existing research points to a positive, albeit weak and highly context-dependent, relationship between certification, farmers’ income, and food security. However, there is only indicative evidence about the relationships that link certification to food security via its influence on land use, land rights, and gender equality.


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  • Publication type:

    • Journal article
  • Other authors:

    • Philip Schleifer
    • Yixian Sun