Karla Rubio

Karla Vanessa Rubio Jovel
© Karla Rubio
Karla Vanessa Rubio Jovel
Graduate School of Politics
Scharnhorststraße 100
48151 Münster
  • Projekt

    “The effect of Voluntary Sustainability Standards on the socioeconomic wellbeing of coffee producers in three Latin-American countries”


    Coffee is one of the most important commodities in the world, representing a significant proportion of the total value of the exports in the producing countries (Lernoud et al., 2018; Ponte, 2002). Forecasts about global consumption predict that by 2050 the consumption of coffee will double or triple. This increase will come mostly from Southeast Asia and the traditional consumers (EU and USA) (Panhuysen&Pierrot, 2018). This increasing demand, combined to the ongoing process of climate change, and the current challenges producers face to be profitable (Ponte, 2002) put at risk the equilibrium of the coffee value chain, making necessary to think about the development of new strategies to achieve sustainably produced coffee. These strategies should aim for the survival and development of the livelihoods of millions of smallholders, as well as for the coverage of the increasing demand.

    Based on this context, this study uses panel data and matching techniques to answer two main questions regarding the effect of six Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSS) in the life of coffee producers and their families in three Latin-American countries. VSS are market-driven governance mechanisms in which non-state actors define the rules and norms. Even when they are called “voluntary”, studies suggest that these non-state actors can use their power to influence these mechanisms (Giessen, Burns, Sahide, &Wibowo, 2016). The first question is how are VSS affecting the socioeconomic wellbeing of coffee producers and their families? The second question examines the argument that VSS are easily adopted by better-off producers, thus, promoting inequality. Therefore, this second question states, do certifications affect differently the socioeconomic wellbeing of coffee producers, based on their characteristics?. Each VSS works under a theory of change, in other words, a proposed path to achieve sustainable coffee production and sourcing. In these theories of change, different interventions are implemented at the producer and organizational level, in order to contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of producers and their families, affecting the three pillars of sustainability (social, economic, and environmental). To answer these questions this study relies on the “Capability Approach” (CA) and the “Sustainable Livelihoods Framework” (SLF). The first framework provides a broad perspective about the concepts of development and sustainability, focused on the individual and her capabilities, while the second framework gives a practical approach to operationalize the concepts developed by the “Capability Approach”.


    Alkire, S. (2015). The capability approach and well-being measurement for public policy. Oxford: Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative.

    Blackman, A., & Rivera, J. (2011). Producer-Level Benefits of Sustainability Certification: Benefits of Sustainability Certification. Conservation Biology, 25(6), 1176–1185.

    Blackmore, E., Keeley, J., & International Institute for Environment and Development. (2012). Pro-poor certification: assessing the benefits of sustainability certification for small-scale farmers in Asia. International Institute for Environment and Development (UK).

    Burger, P., & Christen, M. (2011). Towards a capability approach of sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production, 19(8), 787–795.

    DFID. (1999). Sustainable livelihoods guidance sheets.

    Fernandez-Stark, K., Bamber, P., & Gereffi, G. (2012). Inclusion of Small - and Medium - Sized Producers in High- Value Agro-Food Value Chains (Vol. 2). Durham N.C.: Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness for the Inter-American Development Bank Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB-MIF).

    Frediani, A. A. (2010). Sen’s Capability Approach as a framework to the practice of development. Development in Practice, 20(2), 173–187.

    Gereffi, G., & Fernandez-Stark, K. (2016). Global Value Chain Analysis: A primer. Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) Duke University.

    Giessen, L., Burns, S., Sahide, M. A. K., &Wibowo, A. (2016). From governance to government: The strengthened role of state bureaucracies in forest and agricultural certification. Policy and Society, 35(1), 71–89.

    Kalfagianni, A. (2014). Addressing the Global Sustainability Challenge: The Potential and Pitfalls of Private Governance from the Perspective of Human Capabilities. Journal of Business Ethics, 122(2), 307–320.

    Lernoud, J., Potts, J., Sampson, G., Schlatter, B., Huppe, G., Voora, V., … Dang, D. (2018). The State of Sustainable Markets - Statistics and Emerging Trends 2018. Geneva: ITC.

    Lienert, J., & Burger, P. (2015). Merging capabilities and livelihoods: analyzing the use of biological resources to improve well-being. Ecology and Society, 20(2).

    Nussbaum, M. (2003). CAPABILITIES AS FUNDAMENTAL ENTITLEMENTS: SEN AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. Feminist Economics, 9(2–3), 33–59.

    Panhuysen, S., &Pierrot, J. (2018). Coffee Barometer 2018.

    Ponte, S. (2002). The 'Latte Revolution'? Regulation, Markets and Consumption in the Global Coffee Chain. World Development, 30(7), 1099–1122.

    Robeyns, D. I. (2003). The Capability Approach : An Interdisciplinary Introduction.

    Robeyns, I. (2005). The Capability Approach: a theoretical survey. Journal of Human Development, 6(1), 93–117.

    Sen, A. (2003). Development as Capability Expansion. In S. Fukuda-Parr &  et al (Eds.), Readings in Human Development. New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Werdegang

    2010 Lehrassistenz: Applied Data Analysis for Development and Household Economics, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, USA.
    2008-2010 Master of Arts in Sustainable International Development an der Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, USA.
    2009-2010 Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin beim Projekt Tsimane' Amazonian Panel Study (TAPS) in Bolivien.
    2008 Postgradueller Kurs: Statistics Tools for Research, Central American University José Simeón Cañas, El Salvador.
    2001-2004 Bachelor of Science in Socioeconomic Development and Environmental Sciences an der Escuela Agrícola Panamericana, Zamorano, Honduras.

  • Publikationen

    Rubio Jovel, K. Undurraga, E, Magvanjav, O, Gravlee, C, Huanca, T, Leonard, W., Mc Dade, T., Reyes-García, V., Tanner, Susan, Godoy, R. TAPS BolivianStudyTeam. Modernization and culture loss: A natural experiment among native Amazonians in Bolivia. Tsimane’s Amazonian Panel Study Working Paper #52.

    Zeng, W., Eisenberg, D. T. A., Jovel, K. R., Undurraga, E. A., Nyberg, C., Tanner, S., Godoy, R. (2013). Adult obesity: Panel study from native Amazonians. Economics and Human Biology, 11(2), 227-235. DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2012.01.005

    Wu Zeng, Eduardo A. Undurraga, Dan T.A. Eisenberg, Karla Rubio-Jovel, Victoria Reyes-García, Ricardo Godoy. Sibling composition and child educational attainment: Evidence from native Amazonians in Bolivia. Economics of Education Review. Elsevier. December 2012

  • Weiteres


    • 2008: Kellog's Leadership Fellowship for the master's degree from Brandeis University.
    • 2001: Scholarship for academic excellence FANTEL (El Salvador) for the bachelor's degree from Zamorano, Honduras.


    • Bestimmungsfaktoren der Effektivität von Nachhaltigkeitszertifikaten für kleine Produzenten
    • Die sozioökonomischen Auswirkungen von freiwilligen Nachhaltigkeitsschemata auf Familien (speziell Kinder) von kleinen Produzenten
    • Social Policy Evaluation
    • Auswirkungen von Policies und privaten Mechanismen der Governance auf die Ungleichheit auf lokaler und nationaler Ebene

    Weitere berufliche Tätigkeiten

    • 2016-2018: Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), El Salvador.
    • 2015-2016: Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), El Salvador.
    • 2011-2015: Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Save the Children, El Salvador.
    • 2010-2011: Research Specialist for the project "Strengthening the capacity of governmental and civil society for the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents with special emphasis on trafficking in children and adolescents".