In recent years intersectoral partnerships for sustainable development have been on the rise in many global commodity chains. Taking the coffee chain as an example, we explore the role of partnerships with the help of Global Commodity Chain analysis and Convention Theory. By means of production standards, partnerships are able to influence sustainability challenges at the production level. However, these partnerships show an imbalance in actor involvement, compete with each other and mainly create a parallel production integrated into the conventional chain. While being important initiators of change, partnerships are unable to turn the coffee chain into a sustainable chain.