NRI report: Assessing the poverty impact of sustainability standards (2013)

Tea pluckers sorting leaves, Kenya © Caroline Irby, 2009, Rainforest Alliance

This 2013 report from the Natural Resources Institute of Greenwich University looks at the effects of sustainability standards on producers and poverty in cocoa and tea in four countries (Ecuador, Ghana, Kenya and India) across a four year period from 2009-2013 for Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade certification.  

The purpose of the study, as stated in their Executive Summary, was to  “systematically examine the impact of voluntary social and environmental standards on poverty and livelihoods, particularly for the most disadvantaged workers and producers in developing countries."  

It also states that "the study is an impact evaluation which covers multiple organisations (estates and smallholder producer organisations) in four countries. The study employs a theory-based evaluation and comparative case oriented design. It employs both generative causation and counterfactual logics to understand causality and utilises a mix of methods. The study covers a number of sustainability standards, principally Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance. Five cases were included, namely: Ecuador-smallholder cocoa; Ghana-smallholder cocoa; Kenya-smallholder tea; Kenya-hired labour tea; India-hired labour tea."

Additionally, the Executive Summary states that "overall, the findings from the five cases show that sustainability standards bring a range of benefits for individual producers and workers, their organisations, wider communities and the environment. However, the scale is limited, except in Kenya. Complementary and possibly alternative measures are needed to scale up impact and to reach more marginalized groups and sections of societies. In Kenya there has been a positive impact on quite a significant scale, but measuring attribution is not possible because the counterfactual was not sustained as the majority of the study organisations sought or achieved certification during the research period. Both groups have shown positive improvements over time, but there is no control group available enabling the measurement of change attributable to the standard. There is also evidence of spill-over effects."


To read the final technical report, click below.

You may also read the case studies below.

Posted on 12/01/2016

Available Downloads

NRI Assessing-The-Poverty-Impact-Of-Sustainability-Standards - Final Technical Report.pdf(2.66 MB) Download
NRI Assessing-The-Poverty-Impact-Of-Sustainability-Standards - Ecuadorian Cocoa.pdf(4.99 MB) Download
NRI Assessing-The-Poverty-Impact-Of-Sustainability-Standards - Fairtrade in Ghanian Cocoa.pdf(8.01 MB) Download
NRI Assessing-The-Poverty-Impact-Of-Sustainability-Standards - Indian Tea.pdf(3.68 MB) Download
NRI Assessing-The-Poverty-Impact-Of-Sustainability-Standards - KenyanTea.pdf(6.53 MB) Download