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 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, 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 resource-exporting countries in the global south. While Swiss commodity traders led a rather secretive existence for many years, ongoing scandals and associated media coverage have made the public aware of the ethical and legal challenges linked to this sector.


The Responsible Trading project aims to assess and anlyse the process of public critique and scrutiny that the Swiss commodity sector has undergone in recent years. Aspiring to shed light on the underlying dynamics of the recent problematisation of the Swiss commodity traders, the Responsible Trading 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 problems of commodity trade known to the broader public, while creating the foundation for changing the sector in the direction of greater corporate responsibility.



Combining empirical research and normative assessment, the specific 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 funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and led by the Institute for Business Ethics, University of St. Gallen, Switzerland.  The project runs for four years from 2019 to 2023.

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