Over the past two decades, sustainability has become a topic of increasing interest to scholars concerned with the social and ecological implications of contemporary capitalist production and consumption. Similarly, the term has gained currency among the general public, which is seemingly increasingly concerned with social and environmental issues. However, understandings of sustainability vary greatly; the term has been used to define a multi-scaled process, a goal and a social movement that brings together diverse groups and offers a presumably positive alternative to conventional modes of development. This research explores the contradictions and tensions underlying the concepts and discourses of sustainability within the context of sugar production in Nicaragua. I argue that widely acclaimed 'sustainable' practices in the sugar industry, related both to World Bank loans and independent product labeling of Flor de Caña rum, a major product of sugar production, have contributed to the marginalization and exploitation of sugarcane workers. I contextualize my analysis of sustainability practices within a political ecology framework in an effort to understand the ways in which sustainable development initiatives have been conceptualized and implemented in Nicaragua's sugar industry. I draw from a case study to first examine the impacts of sustainable practices on sugarcane workers in Chichigalpa — a major sugarcane-producing community in Nicaragua. Then, I analyze the narratives surrounding these practices from the perspective of different key actors, who in spite of being located in close proximity of each other within the same region of Nicaragua, occupy very different positions along the commodity chain. This approach, which centers on four physically proximate yet socially distant nodes along the commodity chain, investigates various ways people at different places along this specific commodity chain ascribe meaning to and interact with 'sustainable' products and practices relative to the Nicaraguan sugarcane industry.