To certify or not to certify: Flower production practices in Ecuador

Jeroen Vos*, Pippi van Ommen, Patricio Mena-Vásconez

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Private environmental standards are increasingly used to set and monitor environmental and social standards for flower export companies worldwide. This study looks at power relations shaping different stakeholder practices in the case of Ecuador. During the last two decades Ecuador has become the third largest exporter of roses worldwide, with the Cayambe-Tabacundo region as its main production zone. Water has become an increasingly contested resource in this semi-arid region. Most of the scarce irrigation water is used by approximately 100 large flower producers, the remainder for subsistence agriculture and cattle breeding by indigenous communities. Flower companies have used toxic agrochemicals that affect workers’ health and contaminate water, and therefore ecosystems and human health. An expanding export flower production has led to conflicts over water and resource contamination. Larger producers are required by some flower traders and supermarket chains to have environmental, fair trade or other Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) certifications. Most standards are, however, permissive, and inspections and compliance found to be flawed. Strong protests and campaigning by local environmental organisations and water user associations and enforcement of public environmental regulations contributed significantly to the improvement of the production practices. In this case, private certification itself was not sufficient to reduce water contamination, redistribute water use rights and improve labour conditions. Only after pressure from governmental agencies, local NGOs and water user associations did flower companies start to comply with governmental and private standards.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainability Certification Schemes in the Agricultural and Natural Resource Sectors
Subtitle of host publicationOutcomes for Society and the Environment
EditorsMelissa Vogt
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
ISBN (Electronic)9780203701737
ISBN (Print)9781138572973
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2019

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