Sustainable development is gradually being noted on the consumer radar and resulting in firms introducing more “socially responsible practices” according to Amrou Awaysheh, a professor at IE business school in Spain.
The main actors in pushing the socially responsible agenda are NGOs, who have been educating consumers that behind the shiny wrappers of chocolate bars and other cocoa based products are a supply chain of villages and families in developing nations.
One of the most popular NGOs in this field is the Fairtrade Foundation.
“Fairtrade is a certification process for, right now it is very famous in coffee, where people understand they are paying a little more for their coffee, but really it provides the farmer with a living wage and better life,” says Dr Awaysheh, professor of operations management.
Companies that are Fairtrade certified include Cadbury’s, the chocolate manufacturer, People and Planet, a clothing retailer and Interflora, a flower delivery service.
As ethics issues diversify to encompass social awareness, Awaysheh says that environmental awareness has been put on the back burner.
“For the last few years a lot of us have been thinking about environmental performance, 'what can I do to reduce my carbon footprint? What can I do to reduce greenhouse gases to make the planet a better place and that's a very good and noble cause. We've reached the tipping point in that a lot of people really comprehend the value that that adds. I really want to go beyond that and think of social performance and improving society.”
At the core of Awaysheh’s research is his desire to use his data to improve the living standards in developing countries, where most of the products that Westerners consume are produced.
“When we engage in these social responsible practices we pay a little more for our cup of coffee, yes, but what that means at the end of the day is that that farmer has a little more money, that farmer is able to send his children to school, those children go to university, they are educated, and in essence lift societies up,” says the professor.
Click here to view an interview with Dr Amrou Awaysheh.