Complex social and environmental interactions within the commodity chain of sericin soap produced by rural sericulture community enterprises in Thailand

Wanasuk, Paphaphit (2019) Complex social and environmental interactions within the commodity chain of sericin soap produced by rural sericulture community enterprises in Thailand. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

Thailand is the first country in the world where the government supports sericulture (silk producing) communities in operating soapmaking businesses based on sericin—a protein isolated from silk wastewater—with the explicit goal of rural economic development. Despite government support (i.e. One Tambon One Product, or OTOP, and Small and Micro Community Enterprise, or SMCE, promotion schemes) and the ongoing expansion of technology transfer to rural communities, little is known regarding the geographies of sericin soap commodity chains, roles and impacts of chain actors, relationships and interdependence between chain actors, and commodity chain impacts. I fill these knowledge gaps and lay a framework for analysis of the environmental impacts of the cosmetics value chain as well as the potential of rural business development to empower female actors. Specifically, this study aims to explicate the complex socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental interactions within the commodity chain of sericin soap produced by rural sericulture community enterprises in Thailand. Adopting a ‘Follow the Thing’ approach, it traces soaps from production in rural Thai communities to market and consumption and analyses the factors that come to light. A collective case study methodology was employed with four case studies to present the realities of the soap commodity system.

This research demonstrates that the soap commodity chain is characterised by practices and behaviours of chain actors, relationship between chain actors, environmental conditions, and government policies. This influences how each soap is produced, packaged, travelled, consumed, and disposed, leading to different socioenvironmental impacts. Hence, each soap value chain has its own distinct characteristics, processes, and impacts subject to its commodity system.

The findings reveal that none of the actors solely dominate or overpower the chain because the actions of community enterprises and government agencies tend to ameliorate exploitation and dominance while increasing fairness to both soapmakers and traders. This empowers rural citizens in general and to a large degree female and elderly female actors.

This research recommends Follow the Thing as an approach to investigate social and environmental interactions within and impacts of the commodity chain and use it as ‘a political tool’ to examine strengths and weaknesses of government agencies, including the effectiveness of government policies. In addition, this study suggests that Thai government agencies should increase the level and consistency of their cooperation and collaboration, so that these agencies can more effectively achieve their stated goals of fostering sustainable economic development in rural communities and empowering rural actors.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Clarke, Michèle
Nathanail, Paul
Keywords: Sericulture Community Enterprises, Sericin Soap, Follow the Thing, Ethical Trade, Environmental Conservation, Ethical Consumption, Thailand, SMCE, OTOP, Woman Empowerment, Rural Community Development
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Geography
Item ID: 56554
Depositing User: Wanasuk, Paphaphit
Date Deposited: 29 Nov 2019 14:17
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 13:00
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/56554

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