Social responsibility and import of certified organic food : A case study of 13 Swedish firms

University essay from Södertörns högskola/Institutionen för naturvetenskap, miljö och teknik

Abstract:

The thesis explores how social responsibility is addressed by firms importing certified organic food from developing countries to Sweden. The approaches to social responsibility of 13 Swedish firms were investigated, of which the majority were small or medium size (< 250 employees) and none belonged to the market-dominating group of grocery retailers. The results show that a majority of the firms consider social responsibility in relation with their suppliers but in view of scarce resources trust intermediary firms for follow up. Many mix ethical trading approaches focused on production conditions, and fair trade initiatives focused on community development. Companies experience uncertainty as to whether organic certification that includes requirements for social responsibility will render a higher price premium. The co-existence of multiple social schemes related to organic trade enables flexibility but in some cases resulted in a perception of subjectivity and differentiation of control measures, which risks to result in a loss of systemic trust. Working through intermediaries has benefits but at the same time leads to the loss of connection to the place and people that the social responsibility targets. Organic certification schemes need to be clearer about the scope and purpose of included social aspects. Further research is needed to understand and compare the social effects and differences at farm or factory level, in relation to the four identified approaches to social responsibility in organic trade. The four approaches were:  organic certification according to a standard with social requirements, combining organic certification according to minimum production standard either with a separate social label, or with a business supplier code of conduct, or finally the belief that conversion to organic farming will automatically bring about social benefits.

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