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Campaigning for sustainable food: sustainably certified consumer communities

Roberta Discetti (Business School, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 9 November 2020

Issue publication date: 5 February 2021




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between consumer movements and sustainability certification bodies in the development of food-related consumer campaigns.


This paper adopts a longitudinal approach to the study of an empirical case, the Fairtrade Towns (FTT) movement in the UK. It combines netnographic analysis on the FTT’s online forum with interviews with members of the community and of the certification body coordinating the movement.


The author conceptualises Sustainably Certified Consumer Communities (SCCC) as a distinct sub-group of consumer movements whose identity coalesces around a sustainable certification and that mobilises supporters with the purpose of promoting social change through the marketplace. The longitudinal approach allows the identification of definitional elements, main practices and unresolved tensions of this concept.


Research addressing the social movement dimension of contemporary food-related sustainability certification is limited. The present study advances consumer research through the conceptualisation of SCCC and contributes to a new understanding of the political roles that market-oriented certification bodies can play in consumer activism. From a managerial perspective, it provides valuable insights into practitioners interested in fostering community engagement.



Disclosure statement: No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.Funding details: The author received no financial support for the research and/or publication of this article.The author gratefully thank Matthew Anderson, for his support in all the stages of development of this paper, and Steve Williams, for his valuable comments. The author kindly thank Diletta Acuti, Nazeer Ahmed, Giandomenico Di Domenico, Crisitano Toffoletti, Hesham Bassyouny and Virginie Litaudon for their helpful feedback. The author also wish to acknowledge the excellent comments received from the two anonymous reviewers on an earlier version of this work.


Discetti, R. (2021), "Campaigning for sustainable food: sustainably certified consumer communities", British Food Journal, Vol. 123 No. 3, pp. 958-973.



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