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Janina Grabs is a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich. 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 zero-deforestation commitments and private sustainability standards in the agri-food sector.

Her postdoctoral work investigates the credibility, effectiveness and equity of corporate supply chain commitments using the example of oil palm production in Indonesia. Previously, her PhD thesis used a micro-institutional framework to trace how private sustainability standards change the incentives of small-scale producers to adopt more sustainable production practices, and conducted 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). In addition to being a Research Fellow in the Earth System Governance Project, Janina is also member of the Bosch Postdoctoral Academy for Transformational Leadership.She has further been a 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 supported the elaboration of a comparative analysis of best-practice examples of agroecological transformations of local food systems.

Janina holds a PhD in Political Science (summa cum laude) from the University of Münster, an 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

  • Grabs, J., & Ponte, S. (2019). The evolution of power in the global coffee value chain and production network. Journal of Economic Geography, early view.
  • Grabs, J. (2018). Assessing the institutionalization of private sustainability governance in a changing coffee sector. Regulation & Governance, early view.
  • 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.



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