Organic and fair trade campaigns bring water sustainability onto public agendas, such as for example in the cotton/textile sector. Armedangels, a German company, advertises its t-shirts by arguing that their production requires only 1/10th of the water required in conventional production. This article studies the ambitions of such corporate agenda-setters. Methodologically, we develop a framework that contains six criteria and nine indicators, which allow us to code and assess the certification standards. In addition, we conducted semi-structured interviews, group discussions, and participatory observations in order to better understand whose agendas certification is promulgating. The criteria encompass the social and environmental dimensions of water sustainability. Our cases include Naturland (a private organic standard), the European Union (EU) Organic Regulation (a public organic standard), the Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO) (a fair trade initiative), and the Fair for Life (FFL) standard (an organic and fair trade standard). Our study also looks at the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), which are two multi-stakeholder initiatives that operate on the conventional market in cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The findings demonstrate that organic and fair trade companies rightly present themselves as water policy entrepreneurs. However, crucial aspects of water sustainability remain hidden. In particular, there is a cleavage between the environmental agendas of organic movements and NGOs that are represented in certification and the urgent social water problems in the Global South.
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