Producer agency in certification schemes: challenges and opportunities

Date: Wednesday, 20 January, 2021
Where: Online
Three people walking and carrying bags on their backs.

Fair trade coffee growers in Tacuba, El Salvador (Photo: Adam Baker via FlickrCC BY 2.0)

On Wednesday, 20 January a webinar discussed the challenges and impacts of the lack of small-scale producer voice and agency in certification schemes, and ways to more meaningfully promote such voice and agency in standards setting worldwide.

An initiative led by IIED is generating lessons on how rural producers, their associations and wider communities can best empower themselves to articulate their development priorities, make informed choices and negotiate effectively for equitable partnerships with progressive private sector actors in commercial agriculture.

The vast majority of voluntary certification organisations fail to include producers in their governance. In addition, some companies are moving to ‘first-party’ (i.e. their own) certification schemes in response to perceived ‘failures’ of existing third-party schemes, which risks further diminishing producer voice and agency, while strengthening corporate control.


Thierry Berger (, associate researcher, IIED's Natural Resources research group