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The objective of this paper is to understand and trace the emergence of Southern standards in global agricultural value chains. While the trend towards private standards established by developed country or 'Northern' actors has received significant attention in the literature, recently an emergent counter-trend can be observed which manifests in the development of standards by Southern producer country actors. This may be attributed to the perceived lack of legitimacy of global standards, especially from a Southern perspective. The paper therefore applies a legitimacy perspective to analyse the emergence of new Southern standards in Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil, Brazilian soy and South African fruit production. The analysis reveals that Southern standards both target different audiences to obtain legitimacy and rely on different sources of legitimacy as compared to established Northern standards. This is done explicitly in order to create cognitive and moral distance to Northern standards and ultimately to reclaim the issue areas occupied by Northern standards. The paper discusses and reflects on the implications of the emergence of Southern standards for sustainability governance and concludes with the identification of future research opportunities on Southern standards.