Alternative forms of entrepreneurship, production and consumption
A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. Cooperative enterprises exist in all sectors of the economy and employment in or within the scope of cooperatives is estimated at a minimum of 279 million people across the globe.
The rapid development of alternative local food networks represents a reaction to the industrialization and productivism of globalized food production systems. These food production and distribution networks differ from the dominant systems in proposing a short distribution circuit, limiting the number of intermediaries between the farmer and the consumer to one or zero. They are based on relationships that are usually associated with specific geographic locations and ethical frameworks that seek to address a whole series of questions, including transport of foodstuffs and the use of agrochemicals, human health and animal well-being, (non)ethical practices (at the local and global levels) and exploiting labour power. The three key principles of environmental, economic and social sustainability are taken into account.
The term fair trade emerged in Europe as an attempt to introduce justice and solidarity into trade between northern and southern countries. For thousands of producers in southern countries, it has been and remains an excellent opportunity to obtain better quality production, better prices, better working conditions and improved quality of life for them and their families. Fair trade should not be reduced to a simple sales strategy, since it can also drive sustainable local production, decent jobs, equitable relation between the sexes, etc. By promoting the creation of networks and organization between small-scale local producers, placing a higher value on work and environmental protection and appealing to consumers to make responsible purchasing choices part of daily life, it gives a more supportive basis to the relations involved in production, sales and consumption.
Tourism provides a vital source of income for many developing countries, yet economic success often comes at the expense of the environment and local populations. Mass tourism threatens biodiversity, damages ecosystems and causes violations of the rights of workers, minorities and local communities. Corporations, rather than local people reap the financial rewards. Local communities and social entrepreneurs all over the developing world are setting up community-based tourism projects.
Responsible, socially committed, ethical and critical consumption constitute a series of responses to the social and environmental consequences of a society based on overconsumption that has taken root since the post-WWII boom period. Fair trade, short circuits, organic and community-supported farming, AMAP in France, GAS in Italy and consumer cooperatives are all alternative systems for producing, distributing and/or consuming, offering an alternative economic approach rooted in partnerships between producers and consumers. They aim to create a process whereby the risks and benefits linked to healthy, ethical and collaborative production that respects natural and cultural heritage is shared between these economic actors. They take into account the social conditions underpinning production as well as its methods.