Voluntary standards are key instruments to address sustainability concerns in value chains. The legitimacy of these initiatives has been debated, particularly related to acceptance by Global South stakeholders. The governance literature has predominantly argued that initiatives employing democratic approaches to governance are more likely to increase their legitimacy. In this article, we use a configurational approach to test this proposition in relation to standard acceptance by southern producers. A qualitative comparative analysis of eight cases was carried out, linking three elements of input legitimacy (inclusion, participation, and accountability) to the outcome of standard uptake in the Global South. While our findings suggest that an inclusive governance structure is important, overall, they show no evidence to explain the presence or absence of standard acceptance in the Global South. We conclude that theoretical assumptions about democratic legitimacy cannot be confirmed and argue for further opening up the scholarly debate to include conceptualizations, methods, and approaches inclusive of different ways of creating and perceiving legitimacy.

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