Why Environmental Standards Do Not Guide Food Practices: The Role of Certified and Rewarding Dimensions of Standards in Understanding the Sustainable Consumption of French Households

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Sophie DUBUISSON-QUELLIER , Centre de sociologie des organisations, Sciences Po-CNRS, Paris, France
SÚverine GOJARD , INRA, Ivry sur Seine, France
Several researches have been emphasizing how much food practices are inertial and not so easy to convert. Indeed, they are embedded in cognitive, symbolic and material devices that constrain them by producing routinized path of consumption. However, households are submitted to a variety of standards that they may refer to in different manners. In France, they have been educated for several decades to implement the rules of a balanced meal; more recently, they have been regularly exposed to different public messages on how to consume eco-friendly food. However, environmental standards are often competing poorly with other kind of standards, especially nutritional standards. They may either be ignored or disqualified by individuals. Why environmental prescriptions are not more efficient in orienting food practices in France?

By relying on an in-depth ethnographic study conducted among 30 households in France, we identify the conditions of use of nutritional and environmental standards by households in their food practices (planning, shopping, cooking, eating). Our results are twofold. First, we state that individuals rely on standards they consider as stabilized knowledge, even though they may use it in a very idiosyncratic way. Since they may consider environmental standards as relying on negotiable belief rather than certified knowledge, they are less prone to implement them. Secondly, standards are not only guiding practices, individuals also use them to get rewarded. Considering the case of food practices, following proper nutritional standards for a mother is a way of receiving rewards from peers and family for being a good mother. This is not the case for the environmental standards, for which the peer group does not generally play this role, and, moreover could deny the existence of such a standard. These insights could be of help for understanding the unsustainable features of some food consumption practices.