RESPONSIBLE TRADING PROJECT
Switzerland is one of the leading commodity trading hubs worldwide, both in regard to minerals and metals as well as to soft commodities, representing for some 15-25 percent of the global commodities trading volume. Accounting for around 4.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 (SECO), the commodity sector has come under scrutiny and criticism for its lack of transparency with regard to adverse impacts on the enviroment and human rights in commodity-producing countries in the global south. As commodity trading is majorly a business-to-business relationship, the public debate has until a decade ago not paid much attention to it. Recent reports of ongoing environmental and human rights concerns linked to the sector and associated media coverage have raised ethical and legal questions about commodity trading.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The Responsible Trading project aims to assess and analyse the process of public scrutiny that the Swiss commodity sector has undergone in recent years. The project pays particular heed to how networks of actors from civil society and the political realm were formed with the aim of making the systematic concerns of commodity trade and connected responses known to the broader public, while creating the foundation for moving the sector in the direction of greater corporate responsibility.
KEY RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Combining empirical research and normative assessment, the research questions guiding the project are:
1. How did particular (networks of) actors challenge the Swiss Commodity Sector by translating individual concerns and divergent interests and beliefs into broader concerns?
2. Which higher common principles did the (networks of) actors draw on to justify particular allegations and demands and how do commodity firms react in response?
3. To what extent do the justifications and practical reactions of commodity firms measure up to cutting edge academic debates about the corporate responsibility of international business?
The Responsible Trading project is led by the Institute for Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The project runs for four years from 2019 to 2023.