The global agrifood system is particularly suited to study corporate power. Over the last century, business enterprises across the various stages of the food chain have grown to enormous sizes and extended their reach to every corner of the globe. At the same time, however, the global food system is also a good place to look at the contestation of corporate power. In the last decades, we have seen a rise in practices and initiatives providing an intentionally and distinctly different cultural, economic and political system of food production, distribution and consumption. Their size and overall impact pale in comparison to those of a single corporate actor in the food chain. Still, we may want to ask to what extent these challenges to a corporatized global political economy of food may carry the potential for fundamental change, in the end. In this chapter, the authors tell both stories. They show how transnational corporations today go far beyond their traditional political role as lobbyists, by directly engaging in global food governance through various practices and mechanisms. Indeed, they play a core role both in the creation of rules for others, and in the creation of the very rules meant to monitor and control their own activities. The authors also show how civil society and small business actors collaborate (if not merge) in attempts to create alternatives to the industrial and corporatized global food system. On the basis of these two stories, different scenarios for the future of the global political economy of food arise.
Tobias Gumbert and Doris Fuchs
Doris Fuchs and Agni Kalfagianni
Sylvia Lorek and Doris Fuchs
Chapter 2, ‘Why only strong sustainable consumption governance will make a difference’ by Sylvia Lorek and Doris Fuchs offers a historical overview of academic and political discourse about sustainable consumption in the past 30 years. It provides a systematic and contrasting account of differences and similarities between weak and strong sustainable consumption, which serves as a foundation for discussing implications for a research agenda. The authors advocate strong sustainable consumption governance and discuss the need for broad changes in society when strong sustainable consumption is the aim. The latter includes changes in the economy, infrastructures serving our daily habits, the dominant culture and often unsustainable lifestyles, as well as the institutions and power relationships that drive them. The authors introduce a novel approach - consumption corridors - to governing consumption patterns and levels and discuss its benefits as an instrument in pursuit of strong sustainable consumption. They call for further research on design and implementation of consumption corridors.
Agni Kalfagianni and Doris Fuchs
In the past few decades, transnational corporations (TNCs) have become pivotal actors in agri-food governance of sustainable development. Their remarkable growth in both number and size as well as their global reach have made them particularly attractive partners for governments and civil society organisations aiming to foster environmental and social goals by harnessing market forces. In this context, the development of standards and certification schemes that prescribe and monitor environmental and socially responsible behaviour in agri-food supply chains increasingly involves the participation of TNCs. While TNC involvement in sustainable agri-food governance has the potential to achieve great benefits by transforming the market from within, it might also come at a cost. Accordingly, this contribution explores the effects of TNC endorsement of private agri-food sustainability initiatives. Adopting a critical perspective, this contribution argues that while some positive consequences can be identified, for example, a larger penetration of the mainstream market, TNC involvement in agri-food governance will likely also lead to the development of less stringent, comprehensive and inclusive standards. Moreover, the mechanisms with which sustainable development objectives are constituted and implemented by TNCs risk changing the fundamental principles and ideas of sustainable development as equitable and participatory governance. The chapter illustrates its argument with an examination of TNC involvement in a select number of initiatives.