In this issue

Issue 14: Winter 2012: Fair Trade (the movement) and Fairtrade (the label)

From the Editor

Fairtrade’s roots can be traced back as far as 50 years ago, anchored in a mixture of charity and solidarity, and what has become known as the Fair Trade movement.

Before looking deeper into the topic of                 Fairtrade, I would like to establish an important distinction the public may not have yet fully grasped: the distinction between Fair Trade (2 words) and Fairtrade (1 word):

Fair Trade is a movement rooted in trade justice and human solidarity. This view is supported by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) – formerly known as the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT)) – through marketing goods that follow alternative distribution channels characterised by shared understanding of fairness and trading partnerships. (Dolan 2010).

The Fair Trade movement further developed and commercialised under the Fairtrade label. This process focusses on certification and market expansion and is supported by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International. What Fairtrade aims to do is support the Fair Trade movement by marketing goods that follow mainstream distribution channels characterised by mass retailers and multinationals’ involvement. (Low and Davenport 2005; Dolan 2010).

In a nutshell, the Fair Trade movement aims to combat world inequalities by modifying the structures of world trade considered unjust (Steinrücken and Jaenichen 2007). Fairtrade attempts to solve social justice issues through international trade (McMurtry 2009) by:

  1. “providing a working model of international trade that empowers the producers and the consumers that engage in it” (Moore 2004: 74); and,
  2. challenging conventional business practices by being a “tool for modifying the dominant economic model” (Renard 2003: 91; see also Moore 2004).

Fair Trade proponents position the movement as an alternative to traditional trade, emphasising ethical claims and models of social justice. Some argue its commercialisation through the mainstreaming of the Fairtrade label will result in the movement losing its radical edge. Indeed, advocating the involvement of traditionally profit-oriented actors in a market developed to counteract the very effect of the dominant economic model may appear paradoxical.

With this Knowledge Connect I would like to take the opportunity to look deeper into Fairtrade’s potential institutionalisation through the certification scheme and the impact of such on the movement itself.

Dr Fanny Salignac

Guest Editor, Knowledge Connect

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