This is the introduction to a special issue on ‘Sustainable Commodity Governance and the Global South.’ A broad range of transnational governance initiatives have emerged to respond to social and environmental challenges caused by commodity production. These initiatives – like voluntary sustainability standards and certifications – tend to target commodity producers in the Global South, but are overwhelmingly initiated and managed by organizations from the Global North. The agency and initiative of Southern actors in addressing sustainability challenges in their own backyards remains under-examined. In this introductory paper, we outline a typology of how commodity producers, civil society groups, and governments in the Global South have responded to the challenge of sustainable commodity production. Drawing inductively on the contributions to this special issue, we argue that Southern actors either participate in transnational governance, reinterpret it in their own context, or create their own initiatives entirely. The capacity of actors in the Global South to exert meaningful influence over sustainable commodity governance is relevant to ongoing debates in ecological economics about whether environmental and social goals can be achieved by working within global value chains or whether a wholesale reconfiguration of the global economy is required.