A Comparative Case Study of the Legitimacy of Two Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives (MSI) for Sustainability in the Beef Industry in North America
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The beef industry is considered one of the most unsustainable of the food sectors, due to the extensive and diverse issues surrounding its environmental, social, and economic performance. Moreover, the rise of the global population, the consequent increase in the demand of meat products, and the change in terms of food habits and concerns recently observed in consumers, has increased the debates around beef sustainability even further. Within this context, industry actors within Canada and the United States, which are important beef-producing countries, are implementing private voluntary standards and certification interventions aimed at improving the sustainability performance of their supply-chains through multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI). The national Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) initiative is focusing on the Canadian market, while the U.S. transnational Grasslands Alliance initiative, is targeting both the American and the Canadian markets. This study analyses the legitimacy of the governance and interventions development processes of these MSIs. Legitimacy implies the acceptance of an intervention’s process and practices by the members of the supply-chain being governed by an MSI. Lack of legitimacy is associated with ‘greenwashing’ claims, authority denial, limited adoption of interventions, and ultimately works against improvements in the sustainability of the beef industry. Both the governance and the interventions development processes of CRSB and Grasslands Alliance were evaluated and compared against a mature MSI – the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – in terms of input legitimacy using the good global governance principles of participation, transparency, and accountability of the Global Administrative Law (GAL). This analytical framework was expanded by adopting the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance (ISEAL) codes of good practice to define the three GAL’s principles. By conducting a qualitative content analysis and two case studies, it was identified that both initiatives have to evolve significantly in terms of good global governance principles, and that input legitimacy is more evident in CRSB than in Grasslands Alliance, as the former demonstrated more commitment with the participation principle than the latter. The comparison with RSPO revealed the need to monitor the changes in terms of the local context, mostly in terms of notions of legitimacy and engagement with vulnerable stakeholders. Furthermore, there is the challenging task of balancing the implementation of governance changes without compromising the efficiency, and thus the output legitimacy, of an MSI throughout its life time.
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Veronica Moreira (2018). A Comparative Case Study of the Legitimacy of Two Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives (MSI) for Sustainability in the Beef Industry in North America. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13941