Understanding Collective action in sustainable consumption: a relational approach

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Abstract

Depletion of natural resources have become key issues on the European policy agenda. Bottom-up measures have emerged in several countries with a view to promoting awareness campaigns and practical actions with respect to environmental sustainability. All this has led to the creation of new strategies in the policies for consumption, redefining a new alternative geography of food and new opportunities for small enterprises excluded from globalization (Whatmore and Thorne, 1997; Miele, 1999; Murdoch e Miele, 1999; Murdoch et al., 2000). In the new emerging geography of food, the reincorporation of production processes and local consumption are spreading quickly assuming different forms such as the so-called Alternative Food Networks (AFNs) (Abatekassa and Peterson, 2011) or the much less analyzed Food Community Networks (FCNs) (Pascucci et al., 2013). FCNs differentiate from AFNs as in these experiences participants share both the benefits and cover expenses of the organization (Caracciolo and Lombardi, 2012). A common feature of the different forms of FCNs is an interesting relational structure that governs market transactions. Within FCNs, Italian Solidarity Purchase Groups (SPGs) are among the most representative relational forms with the objective to promote sustainable consumption (Brunori et al., 2011; Graziano and Forno, 2012; Migliore et al., 2013). The phenomenon of SPGs is continuously growing in Italy: in 2013, there were 974 active groups , which means that in the two last years they have increased by 22% and by 64% if compared to 2007 when the phenomenon began to spread more intensely. The spread of SPGs is mainly due to new and confirmed policies for consumption testing new social paradigms aimed at promoting sustainable development in rural areas through active reorganizing of the agriculture and food industry (Cembalo et al., 2013; Migliore et al., 2012; Schifani and Migliore, 2011; Brunori and Rossi, 2000). By their very nature, SPGs are activated by enthusiastic individuals who, in an entirely voluntary manner, offer their time and resources to start up collective action initiatives at the local level.As a result, there is a set of rules deriving from complex relational structures competing to define a - self-organized collective action for sustainable consumption. The rules within SPGs differ from the mainstream as they experiment with new social paradigms and innovation system models (Cembalo et al, 2013; Brunori, 2000, 2011). At the local level, in fact, SPGs are often at the center of a much more complex network structure which involves actors that share an explicit ambitions of territorial governance, similar to what happens in the Anglo-Saxon movement of Transition Towns (Grasseni, 2013). In other words, these networks represent the typical ‘grassroots innovations’ (Seyfang & Smith, 2006), in which individual actors and organizations experiment with new solutions to common problems.These forms of FCNs represent particularly important cases because they allow for the construction and consolidation of relations of reciprocity which favor the management of natural resources at local levels with satisfactory long-term outcomes (Migliore et al., 2013). However, while research conducted on SPGs has shown that these groups represent important sources of social innovation capable of suggesting effective solutions to the problems of the unsustainability of the agro-industrial system, to date it is still not clear which actors and roles within the network influence the promotion of long-term sustainable consumption and pro
Original languageEnglish
Pages339-346
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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