Using a case study of US agriculture, this paper examines how governance affects sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. The multi-level perspective (MLP) has become a leading framework for theorizing sustainability transitions in socio-technical systems. It posits that transitions to more sustainable socio-technical systems are an outcome of external pressure at the landscape level and internal pressure emanating from niches. While the MLP is a robust analytical framework, it under-theorizes the role that governance plays in sustainability transitions. This paper addresses this research gap through examining three multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) that have developed sustainability metrics and standards for US agriculture: Field to Market; LEO-4000; and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops. Applying a governance analytical framework, membership selection, decision-making procedures, and access to resources are found to affect the kinds of sustainability metrics developed, as well as their likely implementation. Specifically, the governance processes functioned to channel sustainability metrics towards ones that were congruent with the existing agrifood regime, and marginalize metrics that had the potential to disrupt regime processes. Thus, this article proposes that governance is a key component of sustainability transitions, and that current usage of MSIs in much of environmental governance may function to moderate sustainability transitions.
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