Commodity Chain Analysis

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					Geography 1992
Introduction to Human Geography
Due: 5PM Wed. Dec 12. ! hard copy in your TA's box, and online via Instructions to be
provided in recitation.

Commodity Chain Analysis

Your third and final assignment is to choose a product, and to conduct a commodity chain analysis. To
do this, you must find out as much as possible about the ingredients/components of the product. You
must identify their sources, as well as the social, political and environmental relations involved in the
production, distribution and consumption of the product.

Questions to consider include:

1) Choose a product. Why did you choose this product. What does the packaging suggest about the
product? Who consumes the product? Is it designed for a niche market? Does consuming this product
suggest anything about you as a person?

2) What company makes the product? Is it part of a larger conglomerate? What is the company's record
on environmental and social issues?

3) What materials go into making the product and its ingredients (and their ingredients, etc)? Where do
they come from? How was the product made? What manufacturing or processing was involved?

4) What are labor, environmental, and social conditions like in the places where the products are from?

5) How is uniformity ensured in the production process? How do you know you will get the same
product if you buy it again?

These questions are meant as a guide in getting you to see the “big picture” in how products are
delivered to you. These questions are in no way inclusive, and neither do you need to address every one
of them in your paper.

The assignment should take you absolutely no more than 5 pages, double-spaced, with 1 inch margins
and with a standard 12 point font. This does not include bibliography, title, pictures, etc. You will most
likely not be able to conduct a thorough commodity chain analysis within this space constraint, so you
will have to choose which ingredients to address. You may consider all of the above questions for one
ingredient/component, or may write about different ingredients depending on how much information
you find out about them.

Keep in mind that it is more important to identify the social, political and environmental relations
involved in the production, distribution and consumption of the product. It is not as important to
completely identify all of the constituent ingredients/components, particularly for very complicated
products. It is important that you demonstrate an understanding of how all these elements of culture,
society, politics, etc fit together to bring a product to you. We do not want a catalogue of every
ingredient and where they come from.
   1) If it is early in the game, be willing to switch to another product if you are having trouble (This
      is why it is important to start early.)
   2) If you've hit a dead end, and assuming you already have a good start (see #1), ask yourself:
      1. Where did this piece of the product come from? Am I forgetting something important?
      2. If you can't find specific information about the product you are looking for, can you find out
           something more general? For instance, if you don't know where the hops in your beer comes
           from, then where does most hops come from generally? What are the environmental and
           social conditions in these areas?
      3. When you are at a major dead end, explain in your paper what you did to look for
   3) Don't be afraid to ask someone. Talk to a grocer at your supermarket. Is there an informational
      telephone number given on the product itself or its webpage? Be friendly and persistent.


On conducting corporate research:
Hands-On Corporate Research Guide

Search engines like Google will be quite helpful, but they are most useful once you know precisely
what you need to find out and you are able to determine a specific set of search terms (e.g. factory
Shenzhen labor).

Online references available through the CU library (such as Lexis-Nexis) may be particularly valuable,
especially as a source of information about the corporations making these products.

Business and Human Rights
This site has information about the social and environmental responsibilities of companies. You may
search for information by company, issue, and place.

Pesticide Action Network
This site has news about pesticides and pesticide residues in products.

GMO Compass
A site prepared by the European Union to provide information about Genetically Modified Organisms.

Organic Consumers Association
A site that collects information from mainstream and natural news sources about organic produce, as
well as fair trade, food safety, and GMOs.

Environmental Defense Scorecard
Find information about pollution and compliance by place, company and chemical.

Environmental Working Group
Search by company for information on environmental practices.

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