Where Chain and Environmental Governance Meet: Interfirm Strategies in the Canned Tuna Global Value Chain
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In value chain scholarship, chain governance is the relationship of power among firms in a production network. For economic geographers working on the environment, governance refers primarily to state- and nonstate-based institutional and regulatory arrangements shaping human–environment interactions. Yet the theoretical and empirical links between these two concepts of governance are opaque. Drawing on a longitudinal case study of the canned tuna value chain and a historic materialist method, we demonstrate how interfirm strategies over the appropriation of value and distribution of costs and risks work through the environment. We document moments of change in the value chain that enliven a dynamic understanding of how a lead firm becomes and reproduces its power, and strategies that subordinate firms deploy to try to counter the power of lead firms. We posit that these moves broaden value chain scholarship’s focus from governance typologies toward the gravitational tendencies of capitalist competition and that such tendencies are inextricable from the environmental conditions of production through which they are made possible. This approach enables us to look at value chains and the environmental conditions of production as mutually constitutive, helping to explain vexing modern environmental problems as a core element of the general tendencies, mechanisms, and drivers of power in chains.