Over the last years, key players in business, politics and civil society have promoted Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) to shift global markets towards more sustainable value chains. In this article, we develop a new methodological approach (composite indices) to assess and compare the strength of competing voluntary sustainability standards (VSS). We apply this approach to all major VSS in global coffee production. In detail, we identify 92 regulatory topics relating to sustainability improvements in global coffee production through VSS. We weight these indicators and develop a coding system to evaluate how strongly each VSS addresses each of the 92 regulatory topics. The results show four sub-indices that compare the strength of the different VSS within the four main regulatory areas of sustainable development: (I) environmental sustainability (II), social sustainability, (III) economic sustainability and (IV) compliance enforcement. Aggregating these sub-indices build the “Voluntary Coffee Standards Index” (VOCSI) that compares the strength of VSS across the four main regulatory areas. We evaluate the robustness of the index and correlate the VOCSI with the amount of coffee certified to examine the relationship between the strengths of a standard and its proliferation.

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Ecological Economics
Incae Business School

Dietz, T., Auffenberg, J., Estrella, A., Grabs, J., & Kilian, B. (2018). The Voluntary Coffee Standard Index (VOCSI). Developing a Composite Index to Assess and Compare the Strength of Mainstream Voluntary Sustainability Standards in the Global Coffee Industry. Ecological Economics, 150, 72–87. doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2018.03.026