Center for Fair & Alternative Trade

Colorado State University

Fair Trade Market/Movement Tensions

Fair Trade is expanding rapidly around the world. This movement offers important opportunities for empowering producers and alleviating poverty in the global South and for increasing Northern consumer consciousness and action promoting global social justice. Yet, the expansion of Fair Trade into new types of commodities, production regions, and retail venues is raising important new challenges. Our research examines the challenges that Fair Trade faces in its effort to transform globalization, emphasizing the inherent tensions of working both in and against the market.

Fair Trade originated with faith-based organizations aiming to build North-South solidarity by purchasing handicrafts and other primary goods from Third World producers threatened by war or impoverished by unequal trade.  Certification was developed to provide more producers with access to the high-value Fair Trade market. Today, Fair Trade includes a diverse set of organizations that range from “mission-based” groups to “market-driven” corporations. Our research focuses on how tensions between diverse actors are shaping the Fair Trade movement and market and how these tensions can be addressed to foster social justice into the future.

CFAT Personnel: Laura Raynolds, Douglas Murray, Jennifer Keahey, Claudia Rosty, Nicholas Greenfield & Nefratiri Weeks

Funding:  Ford Foundation; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Mennonite Central Committee; Institute of International Education; Inter-American Foundation


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