1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Civil Society and Social Movements (2000 - 2009)

Le commerce équitable



This paper aims to evaluate the potential impacts for the fair trade movement of closer integration with the large supermarket chains and other mass marketers. The author suggests that the negative effects of this integration run the risk of derailing fair trade. Indeed, since fair trade products have begun appearing on the shelves of the major supermarket chains, fair trade itself has faced pressures to adapt to market constraints. In order to garner greater market share and increase product sales, efficiency and competitiveness are the rules of the game. Such hard economic logic may ultimately distance the practice of fair trade from its founding principles.

In the first part of the paper, the author traces the origins of the fair trade movement. He begins with a description of the socioeconomic conditions that gave rise to it, and then traces the historical development of fair trade from its inception to the present day.

In the second part, the author shows how the fair trade movement has sought to expand, based on a strategy of labelling and branding, into the mass markets served by the large supermarket chains. He goes on to identify and then to assess the positive and negative impacts of this trend for fair trade, and concludes by considering how the possible dangers might be mitigated by closer ties between the fair trade movement and solidarity economy.
  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 15 Dec 2005
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8178
    From: UNRISD