Local and Sustainable Food Supply: The Role of European Retail Consumer Co-operatives

Martin Hingley, Minna Mikkola, Maurizio Canavari, Daniele Asioli

Abstract


 

This paper investigates the rationale for local and sustainable food systems and retailer co-operatives as their entry points within local conditions. Emphasis is on localised food networks and connection between socially as well as environmentally sustainable production, distribution and consumption. Investigated is the premise that co-operative organisational structures, for reasons of their long-term socially responsible origins are at the forefront of development of local and sustainable food systems and are thereby in a position to offer a specific contribution to market development. Two key research questions are proposed: Firstly, is there a pre-determination of co-operatives to issues of sustainable and local food sourcing given the historical and practical context of their ethical/socially responsible and stakeholder-based business model? Secondly, do co-ops express support for re-localising food systems and what contribution do they make concerning sustainable food and their relationships with local food suppliers? The method of investigation is through a two country retailer co-operative sector analysis and comparison (Finland and Italy). The enquiry is qualitative and exploratory in nature in the form of an embedded, multiple case design. The paper makes practical and theoretical contribution to knowledge concerning interpretation of ‘localness’ in food, the role of co-operatives and the co-operative ethos in sustainable food systems and the development of the local food economy. Results of the study show a positive relationship between co-operative ethos and (social) sustainability in local food, but the de-centralised nature of retailer co-operation also provides a barrier to replication of good practice.


Keywords


Local and sustainable food; retailer co-operatives; Europe; social responsibility

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18461/ijfsd.v2i4.241

ISSN 1869-6945

 

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