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Fair Trade: Ethics in Practice

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Abstract:

Until 1991, “fair trade” (FT) had been a small, subversive movement in charity and religious institutions (Moore, 2004). Most authors locate the origins of the FT movement just after the Second World War, with experimental import and distribution initiatives carried by NGOs such as Oxfam and SERVV (Diaz Pedregal, 2007; Moore, 2004; Raynolds et al., 2007). Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, organizations emerged specifically to establish regular FT partnerships with producers in the South and to distribute their products in a more organized manner, through a network of “worldshops”. These organizations were called “alternative trading organizations” (ATOs), “a name stemming from the early days of Fair Trade where ‘fair’ seemed too weak a description of the vision that these companies had” (Moore, 2004).

A second strong institutionalization process emerged in the same period with the development of FT labelling schemes. Starting in the 1980s with Max Havelaar, the certification body in the Netherlands equivalent to Fairtrade Foundation in London, different labelling initiatives appeared in each country and joined together into “FLO” in 1997. The term FT emerged in 1985 from a conference on trade and technology organised by the Greater London Council (Barratt Brown, 2007). The aim of the conference, attended by members of the alternative trade movement, was to establish a system of direct exchanges of trade and technology to challenge the international trade system, which the conference agreed was an unfair system. The low prices received by developing countries for the commodities they exported, and the high prices of the technology they had to import from the developed economies, were the main subjects of discussion. At this conference a list of principles of FT was drawn up and Twin Trading (TWIN) was set up to organize future conferences and to start a system of trade and technology exchange on FT principles (TWIN, 1985). First of all, TWIN decided to try and expand its coffee business and started importing from Mexican coffee cooperative producers and selling through organizations such as Oxfam, Traidcraft, Equal Exchange and other specialized outlets (Barratt Brown, 2004). Then, together with Oxfam, Traidcraft and Equal Exchange, TWIN set up the FT coffee brand Caf├ędirect in 1991.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5848/CSP.3023.00005

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • From Critique to Action: The Practical Ethics of the Organizational World
    This book illustrates the application of ethical thinking to business, management and computing. This book brings together some significant areas of leading edge research and scholarship in the context of engagement with communities of practice, locally, regionally and professionally, with international students, police, teachers, housing managers, ambulance workers, etc. Most of the chapters are based on the practical experience of the contributors but written in an accessible way. There is a strong intercultural and transnational flavour in this book. It is explicitly cross-disciplinary, and will appeal to readers from areas like organization analysis, computer studies and information systems as well as philosophy and ethics.
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