Campaigning for sustainable food: sustainably certified consumer communities

Roberta Discetti

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    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between consumer movements and sustainability certification bodies in the development of food-related consumer campaigns.

    Design/methodology/approach – This paper adopts a longitudinal approach to the study of an empirical case, the Fairtrade Towns movement in the UK. It combines netnographic analysis on the Fairtrade Towns online forum with interviews with members of the community and of the certification body coordinating the movement.

    Findings – I conceptualise Sustainably Certified Consumer Communities (SCCC) as a distinct sub-group of consumer movements whose identity coalesces around a sustainable certification and that mobilises supporters with the purpose of promoting social change through the marketplace. The longitudinal approach allows the identification of definitional elements, main practices and unresolved tensions of this concept.

    Originality – Research addressing the social movement dimension of contemporary food-related sustainability certification is limited. The present study advances consumer research through the conceptualisation of SCCC and contributes to a new understanding of the political roles market-oriented certification bodies can play in consumer activism. From a managerial perspective, it provides valuable insights to practitioners interested in fostering community engagement.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalBritish Food Journal
    Early online date9 Nov 2020
    Publication statusEarly online - 9 Nov 2020


    • consumer movements
    • sustainable certifications
    • voluntary sustainability standards
    • sustainable consumption
    • Sustainable supply chains
    • consumer activism
    • fair trade
    • Netnography


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