Damian Maye puts responsibility and coffee cups under the spotlight in Newcastle

Dr Damian Maye

Damian Maye has been at Newcastle University today, giving a seminar for the Centre for Rural Economy, School of Natural and Environmental Sciences (SNES), Agriculture Seminar Series, using a case study concerning the debates about reusable coffee cups in the UK.

Damian’s seminar was entitled ‘Ethics and responsibility in agri-food governance’. It considered what we mean by ‘responsibility’ in relation to ethics and agri-food governance and extended arguments made in two recently published papers that respectively examined discourses of sustainability associated with food chain performance (Kirwan et al., 2017a) and the potential for reflexive governance in food chain sustainability assessments (Kirwan et al., 2017b).

The work is linked to an EC-funded project GLAMUR (Global and local food chain assessment: a multidimensional performance-based approach), which examined actors’ perceptions of food chain performance in 12 different countries. Damian gave a brief overview of the two papers mentioned above, plus an overview of the GLAMUR data which evidenced the presence of ethical debates and questions in national discourses. Having set this context, he then linked food ethics to the notion of ‘unintended consequences’ and ‘resilience ethics’. This raised important questions about strategies of responsibilisation and governance. How responsibility is conceptualised in sustainability research was then reviewed, drawing on analysis of sustainable consumption and food waste. This work highlights the way intermediaries use mechanisms (e.g. food waste reduction projects) to ‘responsibilise’ the consumer. Firm-level applications of responsibility practices and the corporate social responsibility (CSR) behaviour of food companies are also reviewed. These studies of responsibility (one consumer focused, one firm-level focused) are used to develop a ‘strategies of responsibilisation’ approach. He then examined how responsibility is framed in relation to a specific case study concerning the debates about reusable coffee cups in the UK.

Finally, Damian concluded his seminar with some remarks about the value of incorporating ethics and responsibility into food chain assessment methodologies.