Fair Trade is a form of international exchange that aims to help small producers in developing countries by guaranteeing a fair (above market) price for their products plus the provision of other forms of support. There have been two major developments in the fair trade movement, which are outlined in the introduction to the special issue by Reed & McMurtry. The first was the introduction of a certification program in 1988. Before this, handicrafts were the most widely traded products, but since certification a wide variety of agricultural commodities such as coffee, tea, and cocoa among others have been made available. Initially these products were imported exclusively by alternative trade organizations and were offered for sale primarily through alternative retail outlets. The second major development in Fair Trade was the involvement of traditional businesses, especially large corporations. It is this latter development which makes the Fair Trade movement an important key topic for business ethics.
Proponents of ‘‘mainstreaming’’ Fair Trade argue that it is the participation by corporations that has helped to increase the size of current Fair Trade markets and to facilitate the introduction of new Fair Trade products. Critics argue that traditional businesses, especially large corporations, are not committed to Fair Trade values and participate primarily for public relations reasons. Further, they claim, their participation has served to undermine the original goals of Fair Trade, serving to undermine support for small producers. These critics are also concerned that the current leadership of the certifying bodies is overly interested in increasing sales and has become distanced from the Fair Trade movement itself. For their part, small producers in the South often feel that they do not have a sufficient say in the decision-making of a movement that was developed to support them.
The special issue presents eight articles including two papers from the guest editors Darryl Reed on the different ways corporations have become involved in the Fair Trade practice and J J McMurtry discussing the ethics of Fair Trade.
Full-text access to this special issue (Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 86, Sup.1) is available to current staff, students and faculty via Article Finder which can be found on the A-Z list of library database via Portal.
Photo from Creative Commons: Flickr:Bigiain