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Negotiating partnerships, understanding power: doing action research on Chilean Fairtrade wine value chains

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Sales in Fairtrade wine have been growing rapidly worldwide, and the UK is the most important market. This paper reports on an action research project undertaken with different economic actors along the value chain of a Chilean Fairtrade wine. The aim of the interdisciplinary project was to explore how the internet and tracking and tracing technologies could be used to render value chains more transparent for consumers and producers. An internet interface combined with a barcode-based data retrieval system could allow actors in the value chain to call up economic, social and environmental information about a product. Early findings from the action research process show that while supermarkets are the lead firms in the Fairtrade wine chain in terms of economic power, the producers and the Fairtrade certification body wield ‘moral power’ over other actors in the value chain. Fairtrade producers and the Fairtrade certification body relate to each other in cycles of mutual recognition, thus underpinning each others’ legitimacy and moral power. The paper argues that action research, in particular the positionality of the researcher team as a collaboration partner, can lead to a better understanding of the nature of linkages and power relations between the economic actors in value chains.

Keywords: Chile; Fairtrade; action research; moral power; value chains; wine

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX, Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2008


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