The shaping of 'Southern' sustainability standards in a value chain world: Comparative evidence from China and India

Natalie Langford, Khalid Nadvi, Corinna Braun-Munznger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sustainability standards verify that goods and services meet minimum social and environmental norms. They have rapidly gained traction in value chains that connect lead firms with dispersed global suppliers. Historically, such standards have been created by firms, civil society and state regulators in the global North to govern global value chains sourcing goods and services from Southern producers. However, this century has witnessed the emergence of Southern-led sustainability standards. While a few studies have investigated this development, little is yet known about how Southern standards are shaped by public and private actors, or how domestic as well as global value chain dynamics impact their development. We address these gaps through a comparative study of Chinese clothing and Indian tea standards. Drawing upon the concepts of synergistic and antagonistic forms of governance, this article analyses how, when and why Southern actors (public, private and social) choose to develop new sustainability programmes which either emulate or else disrupt established transnational standards within this governance arena. Recognising the agency of Southern actors, but also their constraints to act within this established field, we examine how the sector-specific political economy dynamics of apparel and tea production shape the mechanisms, processes and relations through which Southern sustainability standards are forged in this increasingly multi-polar world of trade and production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalReview of International Political Economy
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2022


  • Regulation
  • Global value chains
  • China
  • India
  • Tea
  • Apparel
  • Polycentric Governance

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute
  • Global inequalities


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