The many aspects of voluntary sustainability governance: Unpacking consumers’ support for tea standards in China and the UK

Sarah Iweala, Yixian Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


Voluntary standards have become a promising mode of governance to promote sustainable production and consumption in global value chains. Despite a growing number of studies on consumers' preferences for sustainable products, insufficient attention has been paid to the heterogeneity of existing standard systems, which prioritize different issues (e.g., environment, labor, and health), have different origins and sponsors, imply different costs and stringency. How do these features affect consumer support across market contexts? By conducting a choice-based conjoint experiment with tea drinkers in China and the UK (N = 1823), we find that consumer support for sustainable tea standards in both countries is primarily driven by food safety concerns, to a lesser extent by concerns of environmental and labor issues. Moreover, Chinese consumers support highly stringent standards only, whereas British consumers also accept medium-level standards. Standard sponsor and origin matter for consumers in China only who favor government-designed, international standards. Consumers’ preferences for key standard features are associated with individual values, the warm glow of giving, and sustainability concerns but such relationships vary in the two markets. Our findings have important implications for scaling-up sustainability standards in both emerging and developed markets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100080
JournalCleaner and Responsible Consumption
Early online date26 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the German Research Foundation ( RTG 1666 : GlobalFood, 2020) and the Swiss National Science Foundation Early Postdoc. Mobility Fellowship (Grant No. 181429 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Environmental standards
  • Labor standards
  • Multi-tier labels
  • Organic
  • Sustainable consumption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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