Published: “Fairtrade and beyond: shifting dynamics in cocoa sustainability production networks”

This output partially from my ESRC/SCI-funded PhD research, co-authored with my wonderful supervisor Stephanie Barrientos, is now finally published in Geoforum. The author accepted manuscript is below, the full journal version incl. copy-editing etc. is here (50-day free access here). Hope it is useful, thanks very much for your interest!


Fairtrade was the most popular sustainability standard for cocoa in the 2000s, reflecting the movement’s success in building credibility. There have long been debates within the Fairtrade movement over the extent of engagement with private companies, with tensions between expanding scale of engagement versus adherence to the movement’s founding principles. Amid predictions of insufficient future supply, a widening spectrum of stakeholders and standard-setters is engaging in ‘cocoa sustainability’ initiatives. Increasingly, private companies are relying on sustainability programmes they have devised themselves, often eschewing independent certification from Fairtrade and other standard-setters. This paper asks to what extent do the changing dynamics in cocoa sustainability between civil-society standards and corporate-led initiatives exemplify larger shifts away from civil-society sources of credibility, and how is this affecting the trajectory of cocoa sustainability standards, particularly Fairtrade? Conceptually, the paper draws on global production network analysis to explore embeddedness and power asymmetries, complemented by an analysis of credibility through convention theory and sources of justification. Empirically, it reviews the changing dynamics in cocoa sustainability in terms of independent sustainability standards and major chocolate company-led programmes. It argues that the increasing reliance on corporate-led cocoa sustainability initiatives constitutes a significant shift in terms of sources of credibility, which risks exacerbating power and embeddedness asymmetries. It remains open whether this will enhance or undermine sustainability in future.

Roundup of last year (2019-20)

IMG_20170729_190455The summer is also a time to reflect on what has happened over the past year – excepting Covid, the new virus which has thrust the world into a giant social experiment in which it has acted as a magnifying glass on all existing inequalities, and created some additional vulnerabilities. Against this backdrop, who cares what I have been up to? Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, a summary of ca. the last year or so:

Post-doc research projects:

  • Still involved (up to 04/20, and from 09/20 onwards again) in ‘CONVIVA – convivial conservation research project’ with wonderful colleagues including Dan Brockington and Rosaleen Duffy at the University of Sheffield (UK), Katia Ferraz and Laila Thomaz Sandroni at Universidade de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Mathew Bukhi Mabele and Wilhelm Kiwango at University of Dodoma (Tanzania), Anja Nygren and Sanna Komi at University of Helsinki (Finland), Pete Alagona and Alex McInturff at UCSB (US), with overall project leaders Bram Büscher and Rob Fletcher at University of Wageningen (Netherlands), together with Kate Massarella.
  • New project (04/20-08/20): ‘Livelihood impacts of coping with Covid-19 in rural Africa’ (CwC) with the great team of Casey Ryan and Janet Fisher at University of Edinburgh (UK), Luis Artur, Natasha Ribeiro, Jone Fernando Jr, Eduardo Castro and Julio Tembe at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique), Milagre Nuvunga and Andrew Kingman at MICAIA foundation (Mozambique/UK), Dan Brockington (Sheffield) and Rose Pritchard (University of Manchester, UK).


  • From CONVIVA project:
    • Two single-authored publications currently under review around unpacking SDG 15 and the role of conviviality in decolonising conservation; cf. related blog posts on SDG 15 and conviviality.
    • Collaborations with Mathew Bukhi Mabele, Wilhelm Kiwango, Sanna Komi and Laila Sandroni in preparation
  • From CwC project: at least one publication in preparation, cf. collective blog posts for further details of this unusual research project and its findings so far
  • Co-authored papers under review:
    • with my great former PhD supervisor Stephanie Barrientos around cocoa sustainability
    • with my wonderful colleague Aarti Krishnan around value-chain priorities and upgrading (environmental, economic, social)
    • with an insightful collective led by Y Ariadne Collins and Victoria Maguire-Rajpaul around decolonising conservation
    • with the CONVIVA collective led by Kate Massarella on transformations and conservation
  • Still working on a few publication projects related to
    • the Sustainability Development Goals with the wonderful Andrea Jiménez Cisneros (Sheffield) and Marina Requena-i-Mora (University of València)
    • research storytelling with the great Frances Cleaver (University of Lancaster), Jonas Cromwell, Suma Mani and Itzel San Roman Pineda (University of Sheffield)
    • the German initiative for a supply chain law with the amazing Melanie Ströbel (University Koblenz-Landau), and
    • a collaboration with great colleagues also involved in the Scientists for Future initiative around Covid and climate with Clarissa Figura, Gesa Maschkowski and Diana Zeller


  • June 2019: Presentation of SDG 15 paper at Sheffield Political Ecology workshop
  • October 2019: Presentation on cocoa sustainability at N8 Agrifood Conference, York (travel by rail to minimise CO2 emissions)
  • October 2019: Presentation of CONVIVA decolonising work at Autonomous University Barcelona, workshop on Decolonising conservation and climate change (travel by coach/rail to minimise CO2 emissions)
  • November 2019: Presentation of CONVIVA work at University of Wageningen seminar (travel by rail to minimise CO2 emissions)
  • June 2020: Co-organised interdisciplinary workshop with my great Sheffield colleagues Stephen Allen, Renee Timmers, Phil Warren and Matt Watson on ‘Reflecting on including environmental aspects in research integrity & ethics’ (virtual, renewable energy used in home office). Presentation
  • June 2020: Co-organised interdisciplinary workshop for ‘Scientists for Future’ Symposium (virtual) with Diana Zeller on Climate change & coronavirus – contribution from perspective of international development/political ecology (virtual, renewable energy h/o)
  • June 2020: Presentation of work w/ Andrea Jiménez Cisneros (Sheffield) and Marina Requena-i-Mora (València) at Global Goals Symposium, University of Utrecht (virtual, renewable energy h/o)
  • September 2020: Double panel session organised with Laila Sandroni on convivial conservation at POLLEN2020 political ecology conference as well as workshop on storytelling with Frances Cleaver (virtual, renewable energy h/o)

Public engagement/Communications:

  • Collective research storytelling showcase on 7 November 2019 following process led by the great Tim Ralphs and Frances Cleaver with wonderful colleagues incl. Elaine Lan Yin Hsiao, Suma Mani, Itzel San Roman, Tavengwa Chitata, Laure Joanny (cf. Kaltura for some of the videos, including mine)
  • Part of Sheffield team leading Communications for CONVIVA, including through two podcasts with Bram Büscher and Laila Sandroni and lots of exciting blogs
  • Continuous: volunteer for ‘Bildung trifft Entwicklung’ Bavaria, incl. working on German version of ‘Cocoa sustainability challenge’ out of my PhD research


IMG_20170813_195658Sorry, that was a long list … did not realise how busy I have been, and did not want to leave out anyone that I have had the privilege of working with in an official capacity over the last year. Stay safe everyone!

Convivial conservation and SDG 15

I started a new role as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield’s Institute IMG_20170711_210359[1]for International Development in January 2019, working with Prof Dan Brockington and Prof Rosaleen Duffy on research and communications aspects of our convivial conservation – CONVIVA research project. I am very excited to work with a diverse, international group of great colleagues from natural and social sciences on this undertaking.

A first blog post I have written on the subject can be found here on the CONVIVA blog; I am currently developing this into two related papers. Together with Sierra Deutsch and Rob Coates from Wageningen University, we have also developed some thoughts on environmental and social governance in Brazil (here on the SIID blog).

In addition, I have been working with the great UCIL team at the University of Manchester (Sian Yeowell, Sam Hemsley, Steve Miller, Nick Savage) to finalise a module on Sustainable Development Goal 15 which I am contributing to Manchester’s new course on the SDGs. The great Jen O’Brien has taken it upon herself to coordinate this incredible undertaking of a course, taught entirely through Blackboard, available from the 2019/20 academic year. I really hope it will be beneficial to students!

DSC01454However, my cocoa work also continues, developing prior research into academic publications. Why does the day never have enough hours?

JPE paper on representations and storytelling at European Researchers’ Night

IMG_20180325_100331It is that time of year again – I am privileged to be part of a great line-up at European Researchers’ Night/Science Uncovered organised by the wonderful Manchester Museum team. As part of their storytelling activities, I will be reflecting on our experience of taking our Master’s students on fieldwork to Uganda’s national parks: “Would you like to live next to elephants?” Should be great fun again!

I have also just had a paper published in the Journal of Political Ecology (thank you very much to Simon Batterbury and everyone at JPE). This is based on my PhD research and discusses how representations matter, tracing links between drivers, power dynamics and public-facing communication in cocoa sustainability. Thoughts and comments very welcome!

Roundup of last year

A lot has happened! And I am finally getting round to updating the blog. In addition to the writing listed here, there are a few articles in the works also (two currently under review, two more to be submitted to a journal fairly soon) – watch this space.


Conference papers/presentations: 

Public engagement:

  • September 2018: Science Uncovered, Manchester Museum. Storytelling about conservation and development issues/accompanying Master’s students on fieldwork.
  • July 2018: Community Festival, University of Manchester.
  • June 2018: Envirolutions Festival, Manchester.
  • November 2017: Cocoa Sustainability Challenge hosted by Manchester Museum as part of ESRC Festival of Social Science. Materials for Cocoa Sustainability Challenge will soon be available online on
  • October 2017: Instagram videos published through University of Manchester as part of National Chocolate Week on cocoa, sustainability and fair trading (67,000 views). Supporting blog post on development@manchester.
  • September 2017: Science Uncovered/European Researchers’ Night, Manchester Museum. Lightning talk, I love research and Storytelling about cocoa sustainability.


  • June 2018. Nominated for teaching award as ‘Most supportive member of staff’Awards:
  • May 2018. Commended for public engagement work by University of Manchester’s ‘Making a Difference’ Awards.