, Volume 42, Issue 3-4, pp 256-278

Ecocertification of Ecuadorian Bananas: Prospects for Progressive North–South Linkages

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Abstract

Results of our 2003 survey of Ecuadorian banana producers’ farming practices indicate that firms engaged in labeling schemes generate lower environmental risks than uncertified firms. Certified firms exhibit relatively comprehensive environmental management systems, while noncertified farms exhibited limited, uneven, and unstructured adoption of best management practices. We explore the specific circumstances that differentiate the more environmentally friendly firms from their conventional counterparts, and we identify the sustainability pathways available to differently situated firms engaged in banana production. We find that small certified operations mobilize social capital to engage alternative markets and add value to their products, while large certified firms rely on financial backing of international organizations to modernize their operations. For both large and small firms producing bananas in Ecuador, the sustainability gains we observe are premised on mobilization of external resources from actors in the industrialized world. We demonstrate that improved environmental performance of commodity production cannot be attributed to local resources, local dynamics, and local institutions. Our analysis also points to the limits of export of sustainability from rich nations to developing nation firms. Only a fraction of the industry participates in certification programs, and large segments of the population of firms are likely to remain unattractive and inaccessible to external resource providers. In this context, it appears that the state must define and enforce minimum environmental standards to progressively raise performance.