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Spirals of mistrust: The case of the Swedish eco-label KRAV
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE).
2012 (English)Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In today’s society many consumer products, of various description, display labels claiming that production of the item is sustainable, environmentally friendly, ecological or fair to the people involved in producing it. Theoretically the research presented departs from a transnational governance perspective and tries to explain the increased use of certification and accreditation activities as a form of control used in connection to voluntary product labels. The analysis is based on a study of one of Sweden’s most used eco-labels – KRAV – that has the purpose of providing assurance towards consumers that food labeled by KRAV has been produced according to certain requirements on organic food. The specific question posed is How has KRAV organized its labeling scheme for consumers to trust that food with this label really is produced in “an environmentally friendly and ethical manner”? The study reveals that behind this label there is a growing bureaucracy of specialized controls performed by several interrelated organizations. This structure is designed to increase trust in the labeling scheme, although this organizational complexity may also lead to a dilution of responsibility towards consumers. In the analysis the dual character of control activities is discussed and used to explain the development of spirals of mistrust and escalating control structures. The paper concludes that although the articulated motive behind control is consumers’ mistrust and need for control, consumers and consumer voices are surprisingly absent in this development.

The paper contributes to the literature on standardization and transnational governance by adding analytical tools about the so far understudied role of certification and aims to contribute to retailing research on branding. While there is a body of knowledge about how consumer decisions are affected by various branding strategies, we know less about the use and workings of sustainability, fair trade and eco-labels that can be seen a type of brand – how do such labels emerge and who are the actors involved in writing, promoting and controlling compliance with the requirements of such labels? In this paper it is argued that in order to understand the workings of labels in the context of market exchanges, one needs to include into the analysis the wider organizational context that channels the behaviors of actors into certain directions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-81772OAI: diva2:563887
3rd Nordic Retail and Wholesale Conference, Lund, Sweden, 7–8 November 2012

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Available from: 2012-10-31 Created: 2012-10-31

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Tamm Hallström, Kristina
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Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE)
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