Ethical Consumption in Brazil and Chile: Institutional Contexts and Development Trajectories

Tomás Ariztía
Dorothea Kleine
María das Gracas Brightwell
Nurjk Agloni
Rita Afonso
Roberto Bartholo
Journal of Cleaner Production
2013
July

This paper presents the first findings of an ongoing multi-national research project between universities in Brazil, Chile and the UK funded by the UK Economic and Social Science Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID). The Choices project seeks to analyse contextual understandings and practices of ethical consumption in Chile and Brazil. In a further step, it explores how ethical consumption and public procurement can be associated and used to foster sustainable development. The paper presents the outcomes of the first stage of the project, an extensive literature review considering the developing trends towards “ethical”, “sustainable”, “responsible” and “conscious” consumption in both countries. Chile and Brazil are former developing countries, and although they both now have growing ethical consumption movements, we argue that these are shaped by the specificities of each country's political, economic and institutional trajectories. In one case, Chile, ethical consumption has arisen from market forces, with lead actors being companies, consultancies and citizen and consumer organizations. Brazil, on the other hand, provides also a very interesting case for studying how ethical consumption is embedded in another Latin American context: it has a larger state sector and a domestic market size to give the state, and thus the consecutive centre-left governments, great regulatory power, since it can control firms' access to this market. Both cases showed the increasing role of corporate social responsibility discourses and practices interfacing with concepts of ethical consumption. As a consequence, the paper identifies a risk of firstly, “greenwash” and “whitewash” by large companies and secondly, of having small producers struggling to market their products.

Keywords

  • Ethical consumption
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Institutional context
  • Sustainable consumption