This paper examines the sustainability claims of private quality standards, voluntary adopted by supermarket to improve the quality of products in respect of food safety, and environmental and social sustainability. The concept of ‘sustainability’ is defined as the opportunity for upgrading by developing country suppliers in the retail supply chains. The paper reports of an explorative analysis on the perceived effects of 36 quality standards in the retail on upgrading. Data was collected through a survey of a wide variety of relevant media: websites, scientific articles and reports, policy reports, and online newspaper articles. The overall conclusion is that the majority of the 36 standards are perceived to facilitate trading opportunities for developing country producers, but only for those suppliers who can meet the criteria of quality standards. The study found interesting differences between various categories of standards. Standards initiated by NGOs and partnerships are perceived to offer better upgrading opportunities to suppliers than do standards initiated by (inter-) governmental authorities, by individual firms, or by business associations. Standards with an explicit social and social/environmental focus have a more positive influence on process and product upgrading in developing countries compared to voluntary food safety standards. Product-specific standards offer better upgrading opportunities than do generic quality standards.

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Erasmus Research Institute of Management
ERIM Report Series Research in Management
ERIM report series research in management Erasmus Research Institute of Management
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

van Wijk, J., Danse, M., & van Tulder, R. (2008). Making Retail Supply Chains Sustainable: Upgrading Opportunities for Developing Country Suppliers under Voluntary Quality Standards (No. ERS-2008-080-ORG). ERIM report series research in management Erasmus Research Institute of Management. Retrieved from