In my last post, I chose Portland, OR as the place I would study businesses and their efforts to be a force for good. However this place does not fully capture the intention of my framework. The nature of my research topic means I must consider the question, what does it mean to situate a businesses? While businesses certainly take up physical space, they are not based in place alone. There are headquarters, storefronts, and the web of supply chains (often globalized). While the strategies businesses adopt to do good occur in a physical space, they also make change in non-place locals, such as in standards or organizational structure.
My next ask became identifying the various processes of a business creating good and find a meaningful way to situate these within a framework. The question becomes, what imaginary will I situate such efforts in?
To better understand those processes I have created a flow chart of processes. This is a rough outline, and in reality occurs in a cyclical web, not in linear steps as I have depicted here.
- A business decides on a strategy for good, extent and form varies widely
- Incentivized by owners ethical inclination
- Incentivized by consumer demand
- The business makes changes to standards, organizational structure, and communicates this to consumers
- The production standards of a good change in line with new standards, impacting production workers in nationalized supply chains
- The interactions between the business and consumer communities change, most often impacting the way a business interacts with consumers in a given local
- Consumers purchase ethically marked products OR purchase from an ethical businesses
- The consumer learns of the ethical component from various symbols; including certification labels or words such as ethical, green, or equal. Facts are often not advertised, rather the consumer trusts the imaginary projected by the product or business.
- The purchasing of the product or from the business results in the trusted and intended ethical impact
- The purchasing of the product or business results in the creation of consumer identity given the meanings imbedded in the good and the practice of ethical buying.
- The consumer believes their money contributes good to the world
- The consumer believes they have done good for the world; their identity as an ethical person raises
- The cycle repeats.
- The neoliberal market is transformed step by step OR good is created but the overall structure is not impacted
Situating my framework requires a situation in the imaginary where these actors, processes, and ideas intersect. A business is a place where consumer ideology of ethical consumption and personal identity interacts with a stores effort of ethical production, all packaged nicely for consumption by the symbols of certifications or corporate initiatives.
An important processes within these interactions is the reproduction of trust. The entire system relies on trust. Businesses trust in the certification body or internal initiative to provide a standard and label which sells, while consumers trust the certification to deliver the ideas they believe it represents, and trust the businesses to only sell products with verified ethical attributes. A certified business, or one which sells certified products, becomes a space where a consumer does not have to engage with their actions, but can trust the businesses to provide them both the ethical products they wish to support and the personal identity they desire to obtain.
Next week I will continue to consider the imaginaries and spaces my thesis will operate in.