mercoledì 10 febbraio 2010

Ethical Marketing

One example of marketing for ethical purposes is the Cause Related Marketing: is it enough to give firms an ethical profile?

martedì 9 febbraio 2010

What kind of certification for ethical agriculture

Today I was reading and thinking about CSR and certification schemes. Suddenly, one question came to my mind: what kind of certification mechanism is closer to the idea I have of ethics in agricultural productive contexts?
The ideas of ethic I was actually thinking are two: 1) no workers (or worst, immigrant workers) exploitation along the supply chain and 2) a fair remuneration of the "weakest" rings of the supply chain (generally the producers, but not just them).
About the 2nd it could be discussed who are the weakest and what makes them weak. About the first, I imagine it is easy to find objective indicators.
In extreme summary, a farm or a company going ethically should have an ethical manifesto and join certification and initiatives, generally voluntary, that could witness for its ethical profile, better if networking with oher stakeholders playing ethical according to their objectives. Compliance with existing certification protocols or with new ones could work as proof of a fair play.
But, would'nt be more effective , for the previously showed ideas of ethics, a self-certification mechanism by the whole networking supply chain?
I am referring to a system of supervisors where everybody has an incentive to not disobey a set of few and shared ethical rules.
Is to say a system were the auditors are (elected) part of the supply chain being so both auditors and controlled. Everyone controls everyone, and everybody find an incentive in applying this mechanism so that it is not oppressive. The incentive should be higher revenues, fairly distributed.
I think that this kind of mechanism 1) is more difficult to cheat, especially by the strongest part of the supply chain that could be interested in having an "ethical label" just to market more 2) since it is implemented by the same supply chain actors (and not by an external auditor) it implies a concrete "ethical growth" of the firms participating.

sabato 6 febbraio 2010

Ethics and CSR (in agriculture)

In these days, looking for insights about agriculture and ethics, I am deepeneing the role of certification protocols. The Corporate Social Responsability (CSR) is one of those. So, I'm actually reading a book by Lucia Briamonte and Luciano Hinna ("La responsabilità sociale per le imprese del settore agricolo e agroalimentare" - Corporate Social Responsability for agriculture and the Food industry; INEA, 2008).
I would like to post here something about this task and I will refer here several times about this book.
First, it seems there is difference in the application and meaning of CSR for big companies and small and medium farms and enterprises (SMEs). Leaving this apart for a while, I'll focus here on this sentence from Briamonte and Hinna's, that I freely translate from Italian: "In the case of the SMEs, as opposed to a financial and human capital constraints, there is a stricter need for direct relatioships with the stakeholders. It follows that for the SMEs the implementation of the CSR requires 1) an integrated path with the other farms and with those segments up and down along the value chain, 2) a linkage with the promotional actions by the institutions and 3) the support of the local community."
The authors then refer to the SOCIAL CAPITAL which stems from these relationships as a strenght for the SMEs that, being more integrated on the territory, would cover the organizational gap with the big enterprise in implementing the CSR, thus eliminating the firm dimension from the set of constraints.
First, the debate about SOCIAL CAPITAL (SC) is still struggling about its "endogeneity" is to say that there is still no agreement about the dilemma if SC originates from relationships, or relationships occur if there is a "something" asset (eg. cultural background) supporting them. So, translating to our case, it's easier for firms to apply the CSR protocol when they already follow its principles, but there is no reason to think that implementing the CSR means to improve SC, which would lead to enhance future CSR adoptions.
Second, there is no proof that the SMEs belongs to a context rich in (relationships and then) SC by its nature.
Still, it (may be) is true that working on relationships development and management, inside and moreover outside the firm SC develps, and this can help CSR application.

So, CSR, in principle, seems to be something that needs a local ground, at least for SMEs.

Why it should not be true for big companies? Why CSR for big companies should be a "label for a protocol" and not a "label for SC" or whatever other form of locally involved action?
More, can we some how come out with testing whether the proposition "investing in relationships (or in SC) helps CSR accountability and then ethics embedment in production" is true or not?

venerdì 5 febbraio 2010

Ethical goods consumption

The UK market for ethical goods was worth 36 billion pounds in 2008 compared to 13.4 billion of 1999. (source: "Ten Years of Ethical Consumerism: 1999-2008"; Co-operative Bank)

giovedì 4 febbraio 2010

Ethics and Agriculture

The International Forum for Organic Olive Oil is approaching a new topic for its 10th edition: agriculture and ethics. It would be more appropriate to talk about olive growing and ethics since this is our main focus. However, we think that our particular perspective could work as concrete proposal to shift from the detail to the general picture.
Ethics within productive systems has been recently debated. The main tasks seem to be: ethics as a new syntax for future development and ethics as a need of society.

The first theme passes through all the places of the civil activity, both social and economical (if there is still a need to keep them separately). The debate is mostly philosophical even if it tries to trace a road map for the human activities. On this path the Catholic Church offered recently an example, as well as a part of the political and cultural world.

The second task is a river fed by several springs. The personal uneasiness, for those who feel it, that find a natural way out in the “consumeristic” sphere of the daily life by stop purchasing brands with a low ethical profile. The origin of these feelings may be found in the brand policies that pushes individual within their personal sphere, or in the astonishing discoveries about criminal activities by well known brands and companies against workers, weak populations, and the environment.
Some other times, the discomfort origins from a disproportion between the value and the prize paid, and by the awareness of the large companies’ share of profit: value and price are too far, and the same meaning of value is questioned. Other than the negative reaction toward consumption, the reaction to the finds positive guises: people often look for those who can guarantee an ethical profile.

Another spring feeding the river of the need for ethics comes from the productive world. The cases of inhuman work conditions and of overwhelming contractual power are over and over unsustainable and not tolerable. Unsustainable not just ethically but also economically. The economic and credit crisis is probably dismantling a system of connivances that made it possible to sustain this situation. We find here again the disproportion between price and value that often hides unbearable work conditions and environmental disasters, this time not in Countries far from our home place but within the national boundaries. Poverty is coming back not just because of the economic crisis, but on the shoulders of off-limits work and social condition. The exploitation of immigrants during the harvesting season, the recent events in Rosarno (Southern Italy) and other episodes in the rest of Europe are just some examples. Still, another uneasiness comes from the associative and volunteers’ world whose awareness is more often organized and that uses its own grammar, communicating with precise rules and more efficiently. The associationism is more experienced, it is able to lobby and interact in different ways, it has its own bureaucracy, assuming almost the shape of a second political playground.

Everything seem to point to a shift in the collective sensibility and in both the collective and individual knowledge (cognition) of reality.

We can add a third plane of discussion: comsumption. A specification is required at this point: we hardly like to use the terms “consumption” and “consumer” persuased that the there is another vocabulary to descrive the and discuss of economics or of just the purchasing behavior, but we do not want to load this discussion. Comsumption and the use of ethics for marketing purposes, then.

(Before and) During the Forum we would like to pose sevral questions, both generic and specific.

Some of the generic questions that we address you from now to the 28th of April 2010 (day of the Forum) are: how to use ethical contents to enhance local (rural) productive systems? How to guarantee a “fair” value, specifically, for the food products? Is it necessary to guarantee farmers a “fair” income? And how? Could certification labels and protocols be a appropriate answer? Could it be ethic the answer? Could ethic be used as a marketing tool? If so, is it ethical itself? How to do it?

Among the specific questions we would like to work on there is the emblematic case of olive oil market. Revenues’ guaratee for the olive producers has been largely debated and know it seems to be more uncertain than ever. The organic alternative guaranteed for a while, or it could have guarateed, the chance for product differentiation and a more fair supply chain in terms of value distribution.

This is just one of the tasks for the 10th International Forum on Organic Olive Growing. What kind of example does organic olive growing offer to the rest of agriculture? How to improve the chaces it offers? On which line to work for innovation?
We aim to animate a debate that could lead to useful results, possibly stimulating concrete actions and projects, hoping to gain.