Valueworks: Effects of Financialization along the Copper Value Chain

Thematic Focus:
Governance and Accountability, Knowledge Production and Transfer, Poverty Reduction
Involved Countries:
Switzerland, South Africa, Zambia

Received Funding By:

Over the last 15 years, Switzerland has emerged as a major global commodity-trading hub. Swiss traders take an intermediary position in commodity chains; they connect markets, influence the pricing process and, unintentionally, change the life-worlds of people around the world. The increased financialisation of commodity trading change the way value is ascribed to commodities.

The project will study the way decisions taken in Switzerland interact with these local life-worlds. It will analyse consequences of the financialisation of commodities trade by following one single commodity – copper – from mining pits and the surrounding communities in Zambia through towns and harbours on African transport corridors, through Swiss trading firms and banks to the sites of industrial production and recycling in China. The heuristic focus on one specific commodity will enable a study of reconfigurations in commodity chains, of their global consequences and of Switzerland’s role as one of the most important platforms of commodity trade worldwide.

The interdisciplinary project brings together experts on particular sites of copper’s journey with specialists on commodity chains. In cooperation between researchers based in international universities, Swiss and Southern NGOs and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the project will explore the characteristics of transnational links and their consequences for social dynamics in particular sites.

The findings will contribute to a better understanding of global connections and will have direct results for policy interventions relating to transparency in the Swiss commodity sector, transnational policy coherence and sustainable development in the Global South. The research results will feed into policy recommendation for Swiss and international regulatory actors.