Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies


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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. Matthew Shelley rated it liked it Jun 30, Tania rated it really liked it Jan 30, Thoriq rated it it was amazing Aug 26, Josh Bartlett rated it really liked it Jul 09, Stacey rated it really liked it Mar 10, Radim Lainka rated it it was amazing Feb 05, Siena rated it really liked it Nov 11, Ted Turnure rated it really liked it Dec 18, Melissa Krug rated it it was amazing Aug 31, Kate marked it as to-read Dec 04, Ann marked it as to-read Jan 12, Stephanie Berbec marked it as to-read Jun 28, Stephanie is currently reading it Sep 07, Jules marked it as to-read Oct 11, Chris Jensen marked it as to-read Nov 02, Amie marked it as to-read Feb 12, Erin marked it as to-read Feb 23, Asho marked it as to-read Mar 31, Sumayya Allen marked it as to-read Apr 28, Fair Trade producers receive for their products a floor price, which is, depending on the fluctuations of the world market prices, significantly higher then what conventional buyers pay and an additional social premium.

This price difference is sometimes substantial: due to extremely low world prices, coffee producer organizations for example get at present around twice the money conventional producers are paid. On the micro level the picture is, however, more complex. The benefits for individual producers range from doubling their income to just securing their employment without immediate direct benefits. This reflects the different particular circumstances of producers and their environment as well as the uneven distribution of Fair Trade benefits among the producers organizations.

In a coffee cooperative in Costa Rica the individual members earned percent more than the local middle men would have paid them and on average 39 percent more then farmers that did not sell on the Fair Trade market Ronchi, In a coffee cooperative in Bolivia the prices in , compared with the conventional market, ranged from percent to percent for Fair Trade, and from percent to percent for organic Fair Trade Dankers, Several studies emphasize the importance the Fair Trade premium plays in improving the overall economic conditions of a cooperative, such as stabilizing loans, buying new infrastructure or improving the working conditions Lyon, ; Mendez, ; Dankers, The wages at a Fair Trade banana plantation in Ghana, however, were only insignificantly higher than the wages of casual labour in the region Dankers, 57, And in a cooperative in El Salvador the financial benefits of participating in Fair Trade were only enough for outstanding debt servicing, in both cases mainly because only a small percentage of products could be sold on the Fair Trade market Mendez, As Raynolds b: 14 correctly analyses, Mutersbaugh does however not analytically distinguish between Fair Trade and organic labelling, and assumes incorrectly that costs for certification are paid for by producers.

Since most Fair Trade coffee is also certified as organic, it is worth noting that sometimes the prices paid for organic coffee on the conventional market are as high or higher as the Fair Trade premium for organic coffee VanderHoff Boersma, In addition to the direct monetary benefits from the Fair Trade price premium another important benefit is the provision of credit at reasonable rates and the pre-financing of up to 60 percent of the price of the purchases, if the cooperative demands that. The provision of credit and prepayment is immensely important and is mentioned in most studies as very positive Taylor, A problem that has been reported however is that — contrary to the rules of the different Fair Trade labelling organizations and ATOs — the actual payment comes very late, creating immense financial pressures for producers Lyon, In a cooperative in El Salvador farmers complained that the payments were usually delayed by more than 3 months, as opposed to payments after 30 days on the conventional market Mendez, The most pervasive problem and at the same time the major explanation for the difference in the direct benefits for individual producers and cooperatives is that many Fair Trade producer organizations are only able to sell a small portion of their products on the Fair Trade market.

The supply by far outstretches the demand. How this plays out at an individual level is illustrated by a recent study of Nicaraguan coffee farmers Bacon, Other factors that play into the difference in income revealed by the case studies are different local price levels for conventionally grown products and the fact that depending on the internal organization and the social context of the different cooperatives differing proportions of the extra income are absorbed by administrative activities and communal projects. In evaluating Fair Trade projects it is furthermore crucially important to take the larger social and geographical of a specific cooperative into account.

And Lewis points out in his study of the relation between Fair Trade and migration that in the Mexican village he researched the positive effect of Fair Trade organic coffee was outweighed by the negative impact of increased migration patterns. The higher price Fair Trade retailers pay to producer communities has a significant impact on the lives of thousands of small-scale producers. A closer look at different Fair Trade farms and cooperatives shows however that the impact is very different depending on a variety of factors.

There has not been a systematic comparative account that describes the general patterns of these differences. But all studies point out that the biggest problem for producer communities is that they cannot sell all their products on the Fair Trade market. The fact that most producer groups in different studies emphasize the need to increase the Fair Trade market furthermore reveals the importance participation in and benefits of Fair Trade has for small-scale producers Murray et al, 5.

In several studies psychological benefits like improved self esteem and pride in the higher level of control over the value chain are evaluated as very beneficial and important. Other indirect benefits of participation in Fair Trade reported in case studies are increased spending on education of children Lyon, 9; Ronchi, 8; Murray et al, 9 and the preservation of indigenous cultures Murray et al, 4; Lyon, An important issue in Fair Trade is the apparent gender bias.

Sometimes more women are employed but men still get the income Mayoux, Often specific woman empowerment programs are required by the certifiers but the implementation seems hard Taylor, 4. And as Mayoux has pointed out, if females are employed in Fair Trade their workload often increases since they are not exempt from household work. Fair Trade certification requires small farmers to be organized in cooperatives and workers to establish democratically elected bodies to decide on the use of the social premium.

It is important to note the mutually supportive effects of Fair Trade and cooperatives. Cooperatives enhance producer power in local markets, increase income for both members and non-members by creating competition to private intermediaries and democratically empower its members to express their voices collectively. Milford has shown in a study on cooperatives in Chiapas, Mexico, that cooperatives often failed if they were not involved in selling for the Fair Trade market. If cooperatives are engaged in Fair Trade, they cannot only compete better in the conventional market but Fair Trade also works better in generating cooperative and organizational benefits then other financial and developmental support by NGOs or governments Milford, Other studies raise doubts about the accountability and efficiency of cooperatives.

Other organizational benefits that have been highlighted in several studies are access to market information and the increased credibility of producer organizations that participate in Fair Trade.

Fair Trade and Social Justice

All these aspects have helped many producer cooperatives their performance in the non-Fair Trade market, often enabling small farmer coffee organizations to establish direct links with foreign companies, sometimes under conditions similar to Fair Trade Taylor, 10, The organizational strength of Fair Trade cooperatives has helped several producer organizations to take innovational routes of opening up new market possibilities. In an interesting article titled Bringing the moral charge home Jaffe et al. In the first coffee was sold under this Mexican domestic label, thus addressing the problems of small producers that sell to the domestic market and changing a situation in which the best coffee products had to be imported Comercio Justo, These initiatives seem very promising and, as Jaffe et al argue, together with similar attempts in the North they could broaden our understanding of Fair Trade in positive ways.

Another interesting aspect of Fair Trade — one that is extremely hard to measure and that only few studies take into account — are the possible spill-over effects to non-Fair Trade producers and the entire community stemming from the organizational power of Fair Trade cooperatives. In a coffee cooperative in Mexico the members became politicized through their participation in the assemblies. We know this because in the assemblies we discuss the sale of coffee and management of the farms, but also the people are concerned about more wide reaching problems about our relationship with the rest of the world.

For example: how the government projects are run, the problems in the Registro Civil office for births, marriages, and deaths , land tenancy questions, and religious festivals. And a Guatemalan cooperative helped the government in setting up a trash collection program and supported community events and the local school with supplies and furniture Lyon, Besides the financial benefits Fair Trade thus provides a variety of other benefits, all of which are important to the improvement of the lives of producers.

Especially the organizational and cooperative benefits of Fair Trade, even if sometimes not perfectly effective, are crucial in increasing the market power of producers, in providing new sources of income and in strengthening the political struggle of farmers.

1. Introduction

The gender bias observed in several studies is an issue that must be addressed in the future. There is still a lack of consistent research on the impact and the effectiveness of Fair Trade Paul, Especially the attempts to come up with quantifiable methods of calculating if the money spent on Fair Trade products or donated to Fair Trade organizations is well spent, is only in its preliminary stages. Since all the impact studies conclude that the most important benefits of Fair Trade are non-monetary, quantitative assessments can only capture one part of the entire impact that Fair Trade has on producers Paul, The non-monetary impact on the life of producers is hard to quantify, but the qualitative research summarized above should give some insight.

Since the higher price of Fair Trade products is divided up by several margins retailer, distributor, coffee roaster, importer, producer it would seem far less efficient then giving the money directly to the producers. There has not been a systematic account yet. While some studies suggest that a reasonable percentage of the extra price for Fair Trade actually reaches producers, other reports seem to imply that sometimes Fair Trade is a pretty inefficient way to transfer money to producers in the South.

This is however not the general rule. Other retailers, by selling Fair Trade products at the same price as conventional products, have shown the way to increase the market share of Fair Trade and to decrease exclusion on the side of consumers. At the supermarket chain Migros in Switzerland for example Fair Trade bananas have almost the same price as non-Fair Trade bananas which made it possible to increase the market share of Fair Trade banana to 56 percent and Wild Oats Natural Marketplace in the U.

To change this situation, in which consumers pay very high prices with the intention of helping producers, but end up mostly increasing the margin of the retailer, it would be interesting to investigate the possibility of establishing a further criterion for Fair Trade certification, ruling that the margins of retailers cannot be higher for Fair Trade products than for conventional products. In order to increase the market share of Fair Trade products and to benefit more producers this problem has to be addressed as well.

Sarah Lyon and Mark Moberg

Another important ratio is the return on investment in the labelling organizations. If one just takes into account all the money the FLO and its member organizations spent in and calculates the return on investment of this money by dividing it with the total benefits for farmers, the ration is 2. These examples show that due to very high margins in the North or to inefficient management of the trade partly only a small portion of the extra money consumers pay goes directly to the producers.

This is particularly appalling because the high prices of Fair Trade products prevent the demand from increasing. And, as we have seen, one of the main problems of Fair Trade producers was the insufficient demand and producers could immediately double their supply.

Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies

Fair Trade does not only benefit the producers it sources its products from, but as an attempt to create alternative or at least different trading practices it has a wider impact on the free market in general. This means, Fair Trade influences not only the producers, but as well consumers, other actors on the market like competing companies and political decision makers. Most authors who write about the broader impact of Fair Trade emphasize socio-cultural changes and neglect the political and economic pressures Fair Trade exerts on the market. But all are important and I will address them separately.

There has been no systematic research on how participation in Fair Trade brings about socio-cultural changes. I will in this section lay out the general idea of what the socio-cultural impact of Fair Trade might be. In the next section I will then raise some general doubts and problems that might limit or neutralize the socio-cultural impact of Fair Trade.

Fair Trade links consumers and producers together in ways that are fundamentally different from the conventional market, so a claim held by many activists and researchers Raynolds, a. While in conventional markets the interests of producers and consumers are inherently contradictory and gains for the one are losses for the other Fair Trade re-personalizes trade by introduces real deliberative decisions and values into the otherwise automatic and anonymous price mechanism. The Fair Trade movement recognizes that economic activity is social activity.

Whereas the quality of conventional products just consists of the physical features and the image attached to it by the brand Klein, , thus excluding the conditions of production from the value or the quality, Fair Trade includes these into the quality of the product. Fair Trade furthermore uncovers that conventional markets are dominated by the most powerful actors that create the market and shape its rules in their own interests, thus contributing to counter the neoliberal view of the economy as a level playing field Taylor, Different studies estimate the percentage of ethical consumers differently, but there is increasing evidence that 50 to 80 percent of all consumers fall under this category and that the market for ethical goods and services is growing at rates of 20 percent per year and already amounts to U.

This is a clear signal that self interested utility maximisation is not the only driver of economic action — certain values associated with the dislike of global inequalities are becoming additional determinants of individual choices. Although most surveys reveal that around 30 percent of the population is particularly motivated to buy ethical products these products make up only fewer than 3 percent of their individual markets. Fair Trade establishes, in contrast to the competitive trade relations, a partnership approach to trade that aims at incorporating ethics into trade by focusing on values such as equality of exchange, cooperation and fairness and by trying to increase the terms of trade in favour of the producer Tallontire, The social impact of Fair Trade is multilayered and complex.

Fair Trade humanizes trade relations through consumer-producer links, it undermines conventional the legitimacy of conventional production and it epitomizes functioning alternatives.

Fair trade and social justice : global ethnographies in SearchWorks catalog

Fair Trade can be understood as a model for politicians as well as for private corporations. A model of alternative trading practices that restricts competition, includes social externalities into the price and is fairer in its outcomes; and an example of an alternative company model that does not only aim at increasing profits, but at serving both producers and consumers.

The section on the political impact of Fair Trade will discuss deliberate attempts by Fair Trade actors to lobby for political change of the rules of international trade by invoking the Fair Trade system as a model of cooperation in trade that works. And the section on economic impacts of Fair Trade will see in how far Fair Trade influences competing corporations to improve their practices, both through market pressures by conscious consumers and by representing a functioning alternative. Although — and most researchers agree on this point — participation in Fair Trade has important socio-cultural impacts on consumers along the lines laid out above, some concerns can be raised about these claims.

Many studies reveal the limited sense of understanding and identification producers have towards Fair Trade — for most it is just another market that demands higher quality and pays higher prices Mendez, ; Perezgrovas and Cervantes, ; Lyon, ; Dankers, Taylor reports in his summary of seven case studies that it was easier for producers to understand the impacts of organic production since it was more related to their farming activity and they got a higher price for improved quality.

This gap in understanding Fair Trade is, according to several studies, a new development that is commonly attributed to the increased activity of big national labelling organizations and large retailers that see Fair Trade more as business than the alternative trading organizations.


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On the consumer side there is another set of worries. Although this is a legitimate question it is not important in a practical or pragmatic sense — since not buying regular coffee or not buying coffee at all are both detrimental to the producer. There are some further general concerns that can be raised about the power relations in Fair Trade, in particular about the commodification of the lives of producers in advertising for Fair Trade and exclusive standards and prices, but both are necessary mechanisms to make Fair Trade effective and successful on the market.

Besides the socio-cultural impact of Fair Trade described above and its attempts to influence the politically established rules of the market explained in the following section the most recognized impact Fair Trade has on the market is economic. The argument has two parts. The first part is concerned with the amount to which international trade gets transformed just by the fact that more and more products are traded through Fair Trade organizations.

And since that is limited somewhat, the other part analyses the indirect impact Fair Trade has on competing companies in forcing them to change their trading policies by raising awareness about the social and environmental externalities of the production process. Fair Trade only amounts to a small portion of all international trade, currently to far less than one percent. But Fair Trade has potential to grow especially since Fair Trade has shifted from being an alternative to increasingly penetrating the mainstream, and in some markets Fair Trade already accounts for large portions of all trade Krier, ; Taylor, There is an extremely controversial discussion about the recent development of Fair Trade into the mainstream which gives practical importance to the debate between the two visions of Fair Trade described above.

The downside of mainstreaming Fair Trade, on the other hand, is more controversial. There are several concerns about mainstreaming Fair Trade. A general critique comes from conservative free market advocates.

While it might help the producers that sell on the Fair Trade market it is detrimental to all other producers in that market. Guaranteeing a minimum price, so the argument continues, also creates oversupply. The argument against Fair Trade is however flawed. In order to avoid negative impacts on other producers and to decrease the dependency of Fair Trade producers the labelling organizations encourage producers to diversify their production and help them to access new markets.

Furthermore, as I will discuss in the next section, contrary to harming other producers, Fair Trade has contributed to a broader trend of social standards and certifications that might bring about positive change for all producers. Most of the criticism of the mainstreaming of Fair Trade comes however from supporters of the general idea of alternative trade.

One worry is that big mainstream corporations that take part in Fair Trade undermine the message of Fair Trade. Whereas the Fair Trade movement started as a movement of alternative trading organizations that practiced trade not along cooperative lines and challenged conventional competitive and exploitative trading practices the mainstreaming of Fair Trade introduces new actors with different interests and practices into Fair Trade.

Whereas ATOs are interested in increasing the benefits for the producers in the South, the motives of mainstream corporations like Starbucks or Tesco are by no means the principles of Fair Trade but to increase their profits Ransom, This difference in interest becomes manifest for example in the overpricing of Fair Trade products by many supermarket chains, that has been discussed above. Some of the smaller alternative trading organizations that sell percent of their coffee Fair Trade dropped out of third party certification altogether as a response to these practices.

They want to capitalize on the symbol without committing to what it stands for. Some examples: Starbucks, which adopted Fair Trade coffee under severe consumer pressure in , purchased in only 3. As Booth has noted, the biggest retail promoter of Fair Trade in Britain, the Coop, is at the same time the biggest recipient of subsidies from the EU common agricultural policy in the country.

Bill Vorley 77 gives another interesting and telling example: The Asda Wal-Mart excused its shift away from sourcing most of its bananas from small farms in the Caribbean by pointing to its Fair Trade bananas, highlighting the fact that it is still possible to buy Caribbean bananas. It did however suppress the fact that the Fair Trade bananas only made up an extremely small percentage of all the bananas it sold.

A related problem with mainstreaming Fair Trade is the asymmetry in power that is created by the fact that mainstream corporations only sell a small portion of their products under the label Renard, Since this portion makes up a huge percentage of all the Fair Trade sales, the labelling organizations become dependent on these sales, while corporations like Starbucks could easily change their buying policies. If Starbucks would decide to trade its 3.

The growth of Fair Trade into the mainstream bears immense possibilities; but at the same time it creates some new dangers, mainly the undermining of the message of Fair Trade, the fairwashing of socially and environmentally destructive corporations and increasing dependency of the labelling organizations on large retailers. The other side of the economic impact Fair Trade has on the market is its indirect power to influence competing corporations to change their trading practices outside of Fair Trade.

This power of Fair Trade is mainly its ability to indirectly influence and change the preferences of consumers by pointing attention on the producers and the conditions of production and by providing a viable alternative. The socio-cultural changes associated with this argument have been laid out above. Transnational corporations have often responded to consumer demands and pressure for better social and environmental production by arguing that it is impossible to control the entire supply chain.

The new division of labour, involving the establishment of export processing zones EPZs , global subcontracting and lean production are used by TNCs to justify exploitation and environmental destruction as inevitable and impossible to control McMichael, Fair Trade shows in practice that social and ecological exploitation are not natural and that corporations can take responsibility, thus proving the standard apologetic reactions of corporations wrong. It is a well established fact that more and more corporations react to these market pressures and shifting consumer preferences by establishing CRS corporate social responsibility standards and by creating guidelines and standards for internal monitoring Mutersbaugh, a; b; Renard, Starbucks, which sells 3.

Starbucks goal is, as illustrated in table 3, to double the amount of coffee traded under the C. Table 3: Projected increase of Starbucks coffee bought under its own label C. In assessing these developments one first has to take into account the extremely high price Starbucks pays to its producers. This is an extremely promising and extremely effective development. The entire sales of Starbucks, sold at an average price higher than Fair Trade, amount to 2 percent of global coffee sales and are more than four times the amount of Fair Trade coffee certified globally in 30 million kg TransFair USA, 2.

It is however also important to take a close look at the supply chain, to dig into the reasons why Starbucks does not substantially increase its participation in Fair Trade and to see in how far these high prices are outweighed by the high costs of standard compliance to the high quality requirements. The high price Starbucks pays for its coffee can partly be explained by the fact that Starbucks only buys gourmet coffee with extremely high intrinsic qualities. And the C. Since the high price is only one of the benefits of participation in Fair Trade, and as shown in the case studies above not even the most important benefit, all the non-monetary benefits of Fair Trade do only partially apply to those producers selling to Starbucks through its C.

Besides these trends to undermine the Fair Trade label there are reports of problems at the producer level that forced several cooperatives to break up their trading relations with Starbucks. There are some important dangers in this general trend towards voluntary certification that are important to fully assess the economic impact Fair Trade has on the market. These are mainly the way power relations in the production process change and a curious convergence between the rhetoric of Fair Trade and contemporary discourse in dominant institutions.

Fair Trade, so the argument, by promoting the privatisation of standards, facilitates the already existing tendency of the demise of the state in market regulations. Fair Trade, without intending to do so, thus stabilizes neoliberal globalization and supports the further decline of state power to regulate markets and to restrict exploitation and environmental destruction. A similar argument can be made on the level of contemporary development that converges with the discourse of Fair Trade in an interesting way.

Lyon, Catherine S. Dolan, Patrick C. In recent decades, the growth of global markets for agricultural commodities, manufactured goods, and artisanal products has made available to residents of the developed countries an unprecedented array of consumer goods originating in diverse cultures and geographies. Intended to promote global trade through neoliberalism as exercised through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund IMF , the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization WTO , globalization has dismantled most state policies regulating the movement of capital and commodities across national borders Basch et al.

Implemented through regional trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA and the Single European Market, neoliberal policies have also facilitated massive levels of transnational investment, most of which originates from financial centers in the developed North. Meanwhile, technological and transport innovations of recent decades, particularly jet air cargo and containerized shipping, have brought the fruits of such investment within the reach of consumers in the developed countries Harvey ff.

The result has been a profusion of once-novel agricultural and manufactured goods on retail shelves, as well as traditionally available items originating in new sites of production: winter fruits and vegetables from Central America, cut flowers from Ecuador and Colombia, and fresh seafood from Asia have become routine items of consumption for North American shoppers Fischer and Benson ; Ziegler This global sourcing of new products, combined with the ongoing volatility associated with markets. An unknown error has occurred.

Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies
Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies
Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies
Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies
Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies

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