Governance of Labour & Logistics for Sustainability

Promoting labour rights and human security in global value chains linking Brazil and the Netherlands

The objective of the Governance of Labour and Logistics for Sustainability (GOLLS) project is to promote labour rights and human security along and within global value chains linking Brazil and Holland. Sustainability (social and environmental) is central to this focus. 

The project is set against the debate about whether and how the 'logic' of labour and communities (often in the Global South) involved in production can be conciliated with the 'logic' of chain drivers (often in the Global North).

  • Are there mutual gains to chain drivers and to source communities and labour?
  • Moreover, how do we evaluate gains - what lenses do we use? 

It is a framework for systematic enquiry into the nature of value chain governance and its social impacts and thus has considerable policy significance for Government and social actors. As a research theme it does, however, allow for considerable latitude in focus and methodological orientation within individuals’ specific studies.

The project has analyzed chain processes and impacts using case studies of products moving from Brazilian locations, from Brazilian ports and on to Rotterdam, such as in the chain of orange juice, açaí, palm oil and soya, but also investigated general trends and impacts of chains in local communities in Brazil and governance related challenges in different nodes of value chains.

The cooperation between ISS and Brazilian institutions resulted in the exchange of 14 visiting researchers and PhD students coming from different regions (8 Brazilian institutions involved) in Brazil to pursue part of their research at ISS from 2013 to 2017 with the financial support of CAPES/NUFFIC.

The process has grown to include presentations at 12 national and international conferences, MA papers by students from ISS, University of Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Institute of Development Policy in Belgium, 5 PhDs, 4 post-docs, more than 10 reviewed articles/book chapters, as well as monographs and various working papers

In 2017, in partnership with Brazilian university FGV, GOLLS researchers organized a workshop involving participants from Brazil and the Netherlands. This rich interaction resulted in the idea for a book, which is currently in process of publication.

The first phase of the project was concluded in December 2018, but a new phase has been approved for the following two years, renamed GOLLS-Brazil Plan. The upcoming challenges go beyond the products that have already been analyzed to expand the investigations towards local level inclusion processes, chain wide narratives and analyses of global actors.

In this phase (2019-2022), sustainability remains a question and a target, being as it is both a limiting ecological end point and a social process involving individuals, families, communities and societies, e.g. local food systems; small scale farmer networks).

This agroecology perspective provides a backdrop to all of the sub studies in this phase, and models of social responsibility for labour/well-being are becoming progressively more problematized, especially in the current political climate. The geography of space and place, the boundaries for agency and well-being, are being more critically explored.

New projects with seed funding

  • Carnauba – civic action processes for labour rights
  • Cacao – small scale farmers and local food systems (read this post on the ISS blog BLISS)
  • Global commodity traders, social movements and local development
  • Public Policy analysis – agro exports vs social development?
  • Acai – gendered impacts and chain wide sustainability

In summary, GOLLS remains as a home at ISS for researchers and students interested in similar topics by promoting a creative and interactive environment open to the exchange of ideas on these themes. It also sees ISS representing a friendly space for debate, cultural activities and maybe even refuge, in these days of turbulent economic and political change.

In 2018/2019, with the support of the Research Innovation Fund (ISS), GOLLS/Brazil Plan launched a new research thread, covering an understudied element of GVCs - Commodity Trader Firms (CTFs). CTFs are often included in GVC and GPN literature as chain drivers, however little has been investigated on their direct impact at the bottom of chains where they operate, especially to small-scale farmers, and the organized community response to their actions. In addition, the harmonization between CTFs’ market strategies and practices and sustainability policies of host/sender countries has not been assessed.

With that in mind, GOLLS/Brazil Plan initiated field research in the areas of São Paulo and Itaiuba/Santarém (Pará, Brazil). While the impacts of CTFs are often extensive, the main present focus of this research thread is to understand the relation between CFTs value chain strategies and social movements in these locations. At the moment, the research is in the process of concluding a second preliminary fieldwork trip and has established connections with key local partners.

The project is part of the Civic Innovation research group at ISS-Erasmus, and is coordinated by Dr Lee Pegler, whose network and more than two decades of work experience with labour and developmental issues and actors in Brazil resulted in the development of this research project.

Master students interested in GOLLS related topics are welcome to write their research papers with GOLLS and may receive partial funds for fieldwork. PhD and post-doc researchers are also welcome to become involved, making their project part of GOLLS, associated project opportunities and the network. 

Partner Institutions

A list of the most important publications to come out of the GOLLS project

Pegler, L.; Superti, E. & Vasconelas, M.M.V. (2018) The Governance of Emerging Value Chains and their Impacts on Traditional Communities - Revista Brasileira de Gestão e Desenvolvimento Regional, 14 (4); International Journal of Humanities and Social Science; 8, pp24-35.

Martinot, J.F.; Pereira, H.S.; da Silva, S.C.P. (2017) - Coletar ou Cultivar: as escolhas dos produtores de açaí-da-mata (Euterpe precatoria) do Amazonas Revista de Economia e Sociologia Rural, Universidade Federal do Amazonas,

Pegler, L. (2016) – “Working in “Chains”? Human Security in Global Production Networks (Brazil and Netherlands)”, Invited Seminar Address, CEDLA Public Seminar Series, Amsterdam/UVA, 19/2/16

Pegler, L. & Marques, W. (2016) “Civic Innovation by family farmers in the face of global value chain inclusion: between material conditions and imagined futures” in K Biekart, K.; Harcourt, W. & Knorringa, P. (Eds) Exploring Civic Innovation for Social and Economic Transformation. Routledge (Routledge Studies in Development Economics)

Pegler, L. (2015) ‘Human Security in Evolving Global Value Chains (GVC’s) ­ reconsidering labour agency in a livelihoods context ‘in Newsome, K.; Taylor, P.; Blair, J. & Rainnie, A. (Eds),  Putting Labour in its Place: Labour Process Analysis and Global Value Chains, London: Palgrave (CPWE ­ - Critical Perspectives on Work and Employment Series).

Pegler, L. (2015) Peasant Inclusion in Global Value Chains: Economic Upgrading but Social Downgrading in Labour Processes? Journal of Peasant Studies. Nov, 42/5-6, 929-957

Pegler L. (2015) Cadeias de valor sustentáveis e trabalho: dos conceitos à prática, Revista Pos Ciencias Socias,(online), 12/ (24), 167-204

Marques Silva, W. (2014) - What does Social Upgrading Mean for Small-scale Producers? Family Farmers and Oil Palm Cultivation -  a View of Possibilities and Constraints - Institute of Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp.

Pegler, L; Jacobs, W., Reis, M.A.S. & Pereira, H.D.S. (2013) “Transporte, fluxo de mercadoria e o desenvolvimento econômico urbano na Amazônia: o caso de Belém e Manaus”, Cadernos Metrópole v. 15, n. 30, 2º semestre de 2013.

Pegler, L; Jacobs, W., Reis, M. & Pereira, H. (2013) Amazon Shipping, Commodity Flows and Urban Economic Development: The Case of Belém and Manaus. In P. Hall & M. Hesse (Eds.), Cities, Regions and Flows (Routledge Studies in Human Geography). Routledge

Acai production in Brazil - photos

Governance of Labour and Logistics for Sustainability

Governance of Labour and Logistics for Sustainability


GOLLS news

Dr Lee Pegler

Renata Cavalcanti Muniz

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