Sustainable Consumption and Global Trade: Complementary or Contradictory?
This paper explores the pros and cons of free trade and fair trade, and, drawing on eco-footprint analysis, assesses the costs and benefits of trade. How much, and what sort of trade is sustainable? Many commentators have identified that it is highly likely that some countries, especially rich countries, are exporting un-sustainability. This can be highlighted by eco-footprint analysis. Nevertheless, the free trade agenda continues to push for relaxation of trade rules and insists that global free trade is the only way that poorer countries of the world can develop and extricate themselves from poverty. Even advocates of fair trade emphasise that it is only by trading that poor countries can fully develop. On the other hand, proponents of ‘localisation’ increasingly suggest that the sustainable development agenda can only be realised if there is more localised production, if not of most of the commodities that we need then at least of dietary staples. Where does the true balance for sustainability lie? This paper surmises that the key to evaluating the sustainability of global trade is in ensuring that any negative externalities, both environmental and social, are fully internalised, and in the light of this draws up a check list of factors that need to be included in any assessment of sustainability.
Keywords: Sustainable consumption, Globalisation, Free trade, Fair trade, Environmental externalities
Ms Ros Howell
Senior Lecturer, Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University