Traders as sustainability governance actors in global food supply chains: A research agenda

Janina Grabs, Sophia Louise Carodenuto

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


Corporate actors are rapidly gaining ground as nontraditional forms of authority that shape sustainability governance efforts in global food supply chains. This paper highlights the critical, but underresearched role of traders—companies whose core business lies in the movement and exchange of agricultural commodities between producers and manufacturers—in linking corporate sustainability ambitions to on-the-ground impacts. Drawing on a systematic analysis of the major transnational corporations trading cocoa, coffee, and palm oil, we present advantages and potential pitfalls of relying on traders as implementers of sustainability governance and outline a future research agenda that focuses on producer-level impacts, changes in supply chain organization and power dynamics, and traders' interactions with state and other nonstate actors. At the intersection of supply chain management, political economy, geography, and global governance, research on traders as key sustainability governance actors also provides novel opportunities for interdisciplinary work and stakeholder engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1314-1332
Number of pages19
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • agriculture
  • environmental policy
  • supply chain
  • sustainability
  • sustainability governance
  • sustainable development
  • trade


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