Manual Globalizing Responsibility: The Political Rationalities of Ethical Consumption

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Firstly, ethnographic involvement over three years within a FTT group and membership with permission to record and research of its Steering Group. Official minutes and researcher journals of meetings and general observations acted as data sources. This incorporated both the longest standing group in Garstang, and a newly established one in Carmarthen. The sample of FTTs visited, and the participants interviewed, followed the recommendations of other participants who were asked to identify suitable FTTs and FTT activists.

By allowing the research participants some ownership of the research sample i. The FTT activists represented within the study were varied in terms of their ages, professions, ethnicity and backgrounds. There were marginally more female than male interviewees, with ages ranging from six interviewees in their twenties, to three in their sixties and one in their seventies. The most widely shared trait amongst respondents is the expression of political leanings and affiliations best described as left or left of centre.

Finally, a serendipitous development something GT encourages allowed for three days to be spent with a founder of the FTT movement, learning more about the development of the movement and its application in their home town. Each stage provided rich qualitative data via interview transcripts, steering group minutes, researcher journals and other documents totalling , words of data. This was followed by focussed coding to condense and understand the data by constantly comparing experiences, actions and interpretations across all datasets to identify themes and relationships Strauss and Corbin Coding was complemented by the creation of memos to capture thoughts, facilitate contrasts and identify connections across the data.

The findings presented below relate to that core category. Intermediaries between high-level FT ideology and consumption changes amongst organisations and consumers. Key influencers such as teachers, academics and council leaders are seen as essential to FTT success.

Engaging local government, places of worship, education and organisations with synergistic resonance. Local council link making FT promotion possible to headmasters and some schools. Knowledge and experience of FT coming from Universities and other places of work and socialisation. Activist shifting focus from the retail and catering businesses, to improving the supply of FT provision within the premises of other organisations and institutions.

Organisations from all three sectors commercial, public, third sector supporting FTTs. Research identifying the success factors behind FT highlights a range of issues and stakeholders including activists Brown ; Hira and Ferrie , social capital Davies and Ryals , social networks Davies and consumer involvement Dubuisson-Quellier and Lamine ; Alexander and Nicholls Although activism within a FTT will go beyond those involved in the steering group, not least in terms of consumer activism through FT consumption explored by Wheeler , the steering groups represent the key focus of beyond-consumer activism in FTTs.

I see the role of the steering group as being that of intermediary between high level stuff and on the ground stuff, because that is the only way things are going to change. To get people in the community involved in Fairtrade and to raise their awareness of Fairtrade and to ensure there are more Fairtrade goods in the shops and being used by the community.

Group membership is also influenced by strategic decisions to co-opt individuals whose perceived community roles, networks and social capital might be leveraged to promote FT. New nodes people who represent or have skills sets appear to gain functional meaning and significance due to their ability to effectively apply their representation or skills to specific marketing dynamics:. But informally, through the meetings I have been able to contribute our experiences at Christian Aid to the group… I have more information than some of the others on how it affects the poor.

Hopefully I can contribute that way. Diversity in steering group membership is viewed as important to maximise their potential influence. There were two slightly contradictory concerns expressed about group membership, commitment and growth. Younger people are identified as having a different skillset particularly online communication skills viewed as important in helping to further relational activism within the community , and social connections that can generate new ideas and open up new connections. They are also seen as a key segment of the market that a place-based approach may be able to better access Alexander and Nicholls Young people would be good because it gives it more flexibility….

Just getting new people to pick up and run with the agenda will be a good thing. Get another 50 members and become younger. I think once a group stays together for a long time to a certain extent it becomes self-perpetuating and it becomes difficult to get new people in.

We have had difficulty recruiting new people and we have had brainstorming sessions about how we can get more people. Therefore, seeking to pressurise retailers has been a key strategy of FTT activists. In some cases, FT literature was distributed to retailers during the audit process, and the information gathered used as the basis of a FT shopping directory for the town. The relationship between FTT activists and commercial retailers and producers has evolved with the mainstreaming process.

The response of the UK activists in this study was a pragmatic one, of shifting their focus from the obvious retail and catering businesses to instead promote the provision of FT refreshments within workplaces, particularly premises that the public visit including dentists, post offices, hairdressers, tourism offices and solicitors.

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In this way, the activism evolved to become even more locally embedded rather than just targeting consumers as the final link in international retail and distribution chains. Although from a conventional supply chain perspective, mainstreaming appears to have shifted the responsibility for the development of FT and its marketing from activists to marketing professionals, in practice, FTTs have provided a new role for direct activist involvement in the overall FT movement.

Although the core strategy of FTT activists often focuses on generating support amongst retailers, local government and other local organisations where they can have the greatest potential impact Lyon , many activists see a key role for themselves in promoting FT consumption amongst individuals. This is mostly through their private circle of family, friends and work colleagues, involving the conspicuous consumption of FT products to set an example including through displaying products within the home and the giving of FT gifts.

In doing so the activists reflect Clarke et al. Wheeler found that such social networks within FTTs are crucial in terms of people being introduced to, and becoming involved with, FT consumption. Participants in the study were clearly aware of the value of using different types of social network as vehicles to promote FT. The quality of FT products, their developmental benefits and the ease of brand switching are all woven into everyday conversations as a form of word-of-mouth marketing. In some cases, a willingness to engage with consumers on a one-to-one basis extended beyond private circles:.

Beyond the normal marketing perspective of influencing retailers to stock, and consumers to purchase, FT products, activists also target a range of community institutions to build support. For example, it was common in steering group meetings to hear members voluntarily declare links to relevant people they may tenuously know, believing they could add value to FTT activities. Because I work for the college the other day I was looking for Fairtrade sports equipment to try and give some information to the sports department to just say please look at these options and if there is anything you want I would possibly order it for them.

Meso-level activism within FTTs attempts to increase individual knowledge about, and consumption of, FT by connecting with local organisations and groups.

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This represents both an institutionalising of FT at a local level, and a means of empowering local citizen-consumers by making them feel connected to something bigger Wheeler A key focus for this was local government, since their support, if only in the form of a pledge to serve FT refreshments within council premises, is one criterion for accreditation.

Churches and educational establishments were other institutions approached to support FTT initiatives. This support could be through the integration of the benefits of FT from a developmental point of view into the message either religious or educational that they provide. For schools, efforts to integrate sustainable development into the curriculum provide FTT activists with opportunities to speak in class or provide Fairtrade Foundation educational materials. Doran and Natale , p. I quite often preach on Fairtrade as an ethical issue as a response to other gospel readings and a call for social justice.

In fact, I did it on Sunday. I just mentioned it obliquely in a Harvest service I was giving…. I was trying to get the congregation to think about their own behaviour as consumers and how they might be able to help producers in developing countries who themselves may be struggling to feed their families and so on. These institutions also underline their commitment to FT through actions such as churches serving FT refreshments including in some cases communion wine and schools backing up classroom endorsements by also serving FT drinks in the staffroom. Often this interconnection is achieved through individual activists having multiple layers of identity that span across SMO membership, or by using meso-level social capital that bridges to SMO members.

Such connections can draw upon valuable campaigning and lobbying experience and knowledge, and SMOs are perceived to support FTT initiatives in several ways. Some members from Organisation X are very keen on doing things properly Member X is very keen to emphasise to the group that when we campaign we must stick to only promoting the Fairtrade logo because everything that claims to be fairly traded or ethical is not valid.

It must always carry the logo. SMOs also provide practical help and resources including employee time, access to products and testers to use at events, access to marketing materials such as posters or post cards , access to their network of campaigners and supporters or speakers to present at events. It suggests that within a local context, activism can best be understood in terms of a network of influence in which activist agendas can compete Lyon , but can also work synergistically. As well as connecting to other organisations within their community, FTT activists frequently recognise and pursue the benefits of connecting to a wider sustainability agenda:.

And we have to be engaging with these issues of sustainability, and we want to do that. Integrating FT into a broader sustainability agenda can also be instigated by local councils by allocating responsibility for FT to a Local Agenda 21 Officer, or to council sustainability teams. This paid dividends for FTTs, as many councils remained committed to promoting FT because it was contextualised as integral to their sustainability strategy.

This framing of both FT and supporting local produce within an overarching sustainability agenda with institutionalised local government support was potentially helpful in avoiding the US experience reported by Lyon This led some FTTs Lyon studied to seek different affiliations, such as with the slow food and slow fashion movements.

Other campaigns reported offering carbon offsets for FT products in order to deflect carbon emission-based opposition. FTTs depend on demographic, lifestyle and behavioural diversity in their steering group membership to maximise their leverage and utility in influencing FT consumption choice. FTT activists use individual conspicuous consumption as a medium to promote FT consumption in the social places where they interact with their circle of family, friends and work colleagues. FTT activists connecting FT consumption to a wider sustainability agenda within their local communities has paid dividends by encouraging local councils to commit to promoting FT positioned as integral to the pursuit of sustainability.

FTTs take advantage of the neglected relevance of institutional consumption and demonstrate the significance of moving the actions and activities of ethical consumption into the meso-level of place. Wilkinson , p. The power dynamics that Hendry observes concern the attempts by SMOs to directly influence businesses through resource—dependence relationships, according to the interdependence and relative power of the firm and the stakeholder organisation.

FTT activism is less clearly a power and influence relationship between two organisations, or even types of organisations, based on resources. It is more activism that embraces the whole market system and seeks to influence players within that system through common interests and identities, and the promotion of ethical behaviours amongst a range of other marketplace stakeholders as outlined in Fig.

Since the exercise of influence was a recurring theme in the role and work of FTT activists, the findings inevitably reveal interactions and influences at different levels that are overtly political in nature.

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In some cases where councils were particularly enthused, a power struggle then emerged for leadership of the local FTT initiative. The politics of place in line with the findings of Malpass et al. This was particularly noticeable in towns with a strong connection to farming, where activists had to respond to the political debate surrounding falling commodity prices and relative local poverty, reflecting the experience of Lyon Just as Barnett et al.

It is interesting to contrast the relational activism promoting ethical consumption within FTTs and the conventional understanding of the role traditional activism plays in stimulating more ethical consumption and production. He emphasises that:. In particular, the joy of making responsible choices is less salient in activist expressions, especially in contrast to brand expressions. Led by SMOs at a national-level Hendry Seeks to involve political consumers on ethical grounds through advocacy Wilkinson Also seeks to involve consumers from a local solidarity perspective and through acts of exemplary consumption.

Influence exerted through resource dependent relationships and determined by relative power Hendry Increasingly enacted through online communities Hollenbeck and Zinkhan Another potential role that FTTs play is an integrative one between types of marketplace activism, including different conceptions of FT. Wilkinson argues that considerable tension exists between those in the FT movement who seek to promote mainstreaming in existing markets, and thereby engage with the objectives of corporate social responsibility and ethical trade, and those who see themselves as part of the solidarity economy movement and seek to provide opportunities for disenfranchised producers in markets like handicrafts.

This perhaps represents an additional dimension of the evolution of FT, through FTT, to a place-based phase Alexander and Nicholls in terms of the evolving role of activism. The activism that built the FT movement, described by Hira and Ferrie , can be viewed as generally international and strategic in its focus. Arguably, one consequence of mainstreaming has been to take the strategic market development role away from the activist community, as large corporate players in retailing and production have become more involved framed by the likes of Child as the capture of the movement by corporate interests.

The emergence of a thriving international FTT scene has produced a new and valuable arena for activist contributions to the FT movement. There is an argument that the conventional framing of marketplace activists represents a misnomer. Such stakeholders typically seek to change the marketplace actions of others particularly consumers, investors and institutions such as manufacturers through communications strategies that motivate others to change their behaviours Gopaldas ; Hendry ; Sandlin and Callahan Although these stakeholders may engage in direct action, this is typically political action aimed at generating media attention for marketplace behaviours, dynamics and consequences.

At its heart, this is about marketplace advocacy more than action. Indeed Wilkinson notes that Oxfam, a key actor in bringing the concept of FT to the market, has now withdrawn from its trading role to concentrate on advocacy. This he sees as symptomatic of FT institutions having to choose between an advocacy and marketplace development focus. FTT activists, by contrast, seek to engage in their local marketplaces more directly through a combination of advocacy and action. There is an element of communications focused work, but there is also attention paid to the practicalities of product distribution, to getting local retailers to stock FT and monitoring the extent to which they are doing so, to encouraging local organisations to consume FT or local consumers to sample it, and to weaving FT into everyday aspects of towns including events, tourism strategies, town guides and websites, classroom activities, signage and even floral displays.

Through their emphasis on building relationships and networks, there is also considerable attention paid to connecting organisations and establishing activities and events that bring people together. It is an altogether more action-orientated form of activism. The research presented here, like any other, has limitations.

By focusing on the role of the activist in the FTT marketing system, it potentially understates the role that other key stakeholders play. For example, insights from the Fairtrade Foundation, Local Authorities, FTT residents, other community groups and FT producers who have visited FTTs as part of a promotional tour, would unquestionably advance this work. In addition, general consumer insight geographically bound specifically to FTTs could also help to reveal the impact of the activist strategies and roles discussed within this paper.

Similarly, the focus here is on the impact that the activists have on the marketing dynamics of FTTs, rather than on understanding their role within FT as a social movement, or on understanding the steering groups themselves as organisations in terms of their motivation, composition and political dynamics. Such issues represent potentially interesting avenues for future research. Another limitation arises from the sampling method used, whereby the use of recommendations from one group to talk to another inevitably led to groups being recommended on the basis of being active, innovative or successful.

This potentially skewed the research away from groups that have struggled to succeed, and therefore limits the insight gained into the challenges that FTT activist groups can face and how they can overcome them. These are important issues emerging for FTT activists, but were not themes that this research sought to explore. By extending our understanding of how FTTs operate, both as a marketing network, as identified by Nicholls and Opal , and as a form of activist-motivated marketing initiative.

Hira and Ferrie argue that a key to further expanding FT markets lies in developing local solutions to the challenges that FT marketers face linked to issues of accreditation, channel management and increasing awareness, availability and credibility. What this paper contributes is further insight into how local activists are meeting these challenges and fulfilling the key activist roles that Hira and Ferrie identify, including guardian of certification systems, market innovator, advocate for local government support, promoter of FT as a form of standard, and proponent of accountability and responsiveness amongst system stakeholders.

Although previous research has suggested that steering group activists are a success factor for FTTs, how they contribute to that success has not previously been explored. The picture that emerges here is one of the activists exerting multi-level marketing system influence, from engaging family and friends through social ties and exemplary consumption, to pressurising local institutions and outlets of international retail chains.

So although authors like Nicholls see the success of FT as driven by a coalition of marketers and activists, at the level of the FTT success comes from the activists adopting roles as marketers Lyon Firstly, the social cause around which local activism is mobilised does not relate to events, circumstances, problems or specific racial or religious groups within that community as would be the case for community protests against a company reflecting local impacts from pollution, noise or traffic congestion for example.

FTT activism is not even considering a cause within the immediate society that the community is a part of although there is growing FT consumption within developing countries, as shown by several examples in Raynolds et al. FTT activists may pursue global goals, but they do this through local means and by using local knowledge, identities and connections. Their work resembles political activism, whereby activities like canvassing, leafleting and rallies represent local manifestations of a national movement.

By highlighting the broad strategies and key tactics used by FTT activists seeking to both stimulate local market demand, and build local market capacity.

A liquid politics? Conceptualising the politics of fair trade consumption and consumer citizenship

These reveal FTTs as a pragmatic form of activism that goes beyond merely using communication techniques to encourage end consumers or producers to change their behaviours. The emphasis on leveraging the social networks and relationships that exist within a community reveals a form of relationship marketing based on personal relationships and face-to-face interactions. However, greater online influence was seen as a future direction for FTTs and their quest to involve more young activists was seen as a gateway leading in that direction.

By contributing to our understanding of how local stakeholders and processes can support the development of ethical markets from a macromarketing perspective. By revealing FTTs development not just as a new place-based phase in FT market development Alexander and Nicholls but also as a further evolution and extension of the activism that has sparked and shaped the FT movement Hira and Ferrie The insights generated here into the success of FTT activism and how it operates, could have relevance for understanding and promoting other locally orientated ethical consumption initiatives such as slow consumption, local exchange trading or currency schemes, or community enterprises seeking to address key social and environmental needs.

The marketing dynamics and activists roles revealed within FTTs opens up a range of research opportunities exploring the informal marketer role that activists adopt, the relational style of activism they pursue and the market-building strategies and tactics they adopt. As the FTT movement grows in its international scope, the lessons drawn from studying UK FTTs may aid our understanding of the processes involved and the potential to apply them to further develop FT and other forms of ethical markets.

Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 08 December Introduction Fair Trade FT represents one of the most significant contexts for research into the development of ethical markets, and our growing understanding of FT owes much to the key contributions within Journal of Business Ethics. Becoming certified as a FTT by the Fairtrade Foundation depends upon the following: The local government council passing a resolution supporting FT, and serving FT coffee and tea at its meetings and in offices and canteens.

The council actively attracting popular support for the campaign. Data Collection and Analysis The project involved three elements of qualitative enquiry as illustrated in Fig. Open image in new window. Achieving and maintaining accreditation as a FTT reflects a range of forms of pressure being applied, and support provided, by the activists within the local steering groups, acting both as individuals within their own social spheres and collectively within the local community.

The key insights that emerged about FTT steering groups as activists, and the four overarching strategies they adopted, are discussed below. University Chaplin Carmarthen. NGO Worker Carmarthen. Vicar Hereford. Self-Employed Gardener Worcester. Social Enterprise Worker Cardiff. Student Carmarthen.

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Teacher Garstang. NGO Worker Keswick.

Lecturer, blogger, ethical fashion advocate

The activists behind FTTs develop and implement strategies to promote the availability and consumption of products from commercial companies both social enterprises and conventional firms that have embraced FT , yet they are not a formal part of that commercial marketing effort. Their agenda is guided by the remit, marketing support and accreditation processes of the Fairtrade Foundation, yet they are effectively self-organising local voluntary groups that exist independently from such global stakeholders. They engage with other local stakeholders ranging from individual consumers through to branches of international retailers, and exert their influence though a web of connections with other local organisations, and by exploiting their existing social capital and social connections.

The resulting impacts of their activism, in terms of network building and influencing market power dynamics Martin et al. This pattern of influence can be contrasted with that most typically associated with the role of specific issue activism in the operation of markets. Such relationships generally focus on a dyadic confrontation, with activists from SMOs opposing the activities of producer organisations and seeking to act as a barrier between producers and consumers through protests, boycotts and other approaches to pressurising corporations to change their behaviours.

FTT activism involves a multi-stakeholder engagement strategy aimed at facilitating consumption and improving the operation of a market at different levels of the overall supply chain, in both consumer and organisational markets. This is communicated through initiatives such as organising producer visits during Fairtrade Fortnight in which FT producers can meet the people within FTTs and communicate the benefits of FT through attending events, addressing schools and through local media coverage. From their UK origins, FTTs have grown to represent an increasingly global, and globalising, ethical marketing phenomenon with the potential to influence markets and the fabric of life within consumer communities, and lives within producer communities.

This paper contributes to our understanding of FTTs, and the role of the activists within them, from an ethical marketing perspective in several ways: By extending our understanding of how FTTs operate, both as a marketing network, as identified by Nicholls and Opal , and as a form of activist-motivated marketing initiative. Alexander, A. Rediscovering consumer-producer involvement: A network perspective on fair trade marketing.

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Journal of Business Ethics, 84 1 , 1— Chatzidakis, A. Journal of Business Ethics, 74 1 , 89— Journal of Business Ethics, 1 , 95— Child, C. Mainstreaming and its discontents: Fair trade, socially responsible investing, and industry trajectories.

Ethical Consumerism

Journal of Business Ethics, 3 , — Clarke, N. The political rationalities of fair-trade consumption in the United Kingdom. Davies, I. Alliances and networks: Creating success in the UK fair trade market. Journal of Business Ethics, 86 1 , — Ethical decision making in fair trade companies. Journal of Business Ethics, 45 1—2 , 79— Journal of Business Ethics, 92 1 , — The role of social capital in the success of fair trade. Journal of Business Ethics, 96 2 , — De Pelsmacker, P.

A model for fair trade buying behaviour: The role of perceived quantity and quality of information and of product-specific attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 75 4 , — Ideologically motivated activism: How activist groups influence corporate social change activities.

Academy of Management Review, 32 3 , — Denzin, N. Interpretive interactionism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Doherty, B. Where now for fair trade? Undetected location. NO YES. Selected type: Hardcover. Added to Your Shopping Cart. View on Wiley Online Library. This is a dummy description. Globalizing Responsibility: The Political Rationalities of Ethical Consumption presents an innovative reinterpretation of the forces that have shaped the remarkable growth of ethical consumption.