Can Market-Based Interventions Contribute to Sustainable Consumption? Developing a Conceptual Framework on Analysing the Impact of Consumer-Oriented Initiatives Towards Sustainability in Globalising Food Chains.

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Peter OOSTERVEER, Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands
In the debate on environmental change and sustainable consumption market-based instruments, such as certification and labelling schemes, are sometimes rejected because they are considered as ineffective and only resulting in cosmetic change. Real environmental change, as the argument goes requires more fundamental societal transformations. Nevertheless, market-based sustainable governance arrangements are proliferating and becoming increasing popular in many different domains.

This paper takes a closer look at these instruments and thereby conceptualising consumption as a social practice embedded in a bundle of multiple practices that constitute a combination of networks and flows. Environmental change therefore entails transformations in these bundles of practices structured as networks and flows. Empirically this paper builds on previous work on the global palm oil and global seafood supply chains.

From these cases it becomes clear that innovative market-based arrangements create a complex landscape of private and sometimes public-private consumer-oriented initiatives. Analysing them shows that these initiatives may result in important reconfigurations in global supply chains and in actual transformations towards sustainability in the networks and practices involved. Innovative sustainable global food governance arrangements may be effective, for instance because they (re-)connect material and non-material flows and provide additional information along the supply chains (transparency and traceability), or because they bring in public and private actors in area-based approaches (landscape governance).

The paper concludes that these reconfigurations are connected with the transforming roles of consumers, retailers, producers, governments and NGOs in the sustainability governance of global food supply chains. On this basis a research agenda is formulated on consumer-oriented environmental governance arrangements.