Janina Grabs is a PhD candidate at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster in the junior researcher group TRANSSUSTAIN and a visiting researcher at Carleton University, Ottawa. Her broad research interests center on the multidimensional governance of sustainable production and consumption within our planetary boundaries, with a focus on sustainable food systems.

Her current research investigates the effectiveness of private regulatory governance of sustainability, with a particular focus on private sustainability standards in the agri-food sector. Her PhD thesis uses a micro-institutional framework to trace how such standards change the incentives of small-scale producers to adopt more sustainable production practices, and conducts a comparative impact evaluation of the social and agro-environmental practices of coffee producers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Honduras that belong to different certified groups (amongst others, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, 4C, Fairtrade, Nespresso AAA and Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practices). Previously, during her Master’s degree in Agricultural, Food and Environmental Policy Analysis, Janina focused on the consumption side and ways to induce conscious consumers to overcome the attitude-behavior gap and adopt sustainable consumer behavior. At Carleton University, Janina is furthermore involved in a project that compares and contrasts existing theoretical approaches to private regulatory governance in different disciplines, and highlights ontological and epistemological differences.

In addition to being a Research Fellow in the Earth System Governance Project, Janina is also member of an expert working group of the EKLIPSE mechanism (which aims to support policy decisions on the environment, ecosystem services and biodiversity protection with the best available scientific evidence), and a research consultant for the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, where she currently supports the elaboration of a comparative analysis of best-practice examples of agroecological transformations of local food systems.

Janina holds a M.Sc. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Bonn, an M.Sc. in Economics from the Swedish Agricultural University (SLU), Uppsala, and a B.A. (First Class Honours) in Political Science from McGill University, Montreal. Previous to her PhD studies, she worked for the European Commission in their Organic Policy unit and for the GIZ’s Costa Rican country bureau in the NAMA Café support project, where she helped design the country’s climate-smart coffee Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action.

Selected publications

  • Dietz T., Estrella, A., Font-Gilbert, P., Grabs J. (2018) Women’s empowerment in rural Honduran coffee communities and its determinants. Development in Practice (28.1)
  • Grabs J., Kilian B., Calderón Hernández, D., Dietz, T. (2016) Understanding coffee certification dynamics: A spatial analysis of Voluntary Sustainability Standard proliferation. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review (19.3): 31-56.
  • Grabs, J., Langen, N., Maschkowski, G., Schäpke, N. (2016) Understanding role models for change: A multilevel analysis of success factors of grassroots initiatives for sustainable consumption. Journal of Cleaner Production (134. A): 98-111.
  • Grabs, J. (2015) The rebound effects of switching to vegetarianism. A microeconomic analysis of Swedish consumption behavior. Ecological Economics (116): 270–279.



Email: janina [dot] grabs [at] uni-muenster [dot] de
Twitter: @JaninaGrabs
Website: janinagrabs.com
Blog: foodpolicyforthought.com

    Associated Crosscutting Themes

  • Scale