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M Anderson - Fair Trade Partners in Development 08.07.11
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M Anderson - Fair Trade Partners in Development 08.07.11

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In this paper I present a reassessment of trading partnerships within the Fair Trade model. I propose an alternative historical interpretation of the mainstreaming of Fair Trade and challenge the …

In this paper I present a reassessment of trading partnerships within the Fair Trade model. I propose an alternative historical interpretation of the mainstreaming of Fair Trade and challenge the existing narrative that depicts the seemingly inevitable dilution of Fair Trade’s original values and co-optation by corporate interests. The focus of this paper is on Fair Trade organisations based in Britain, it builds on research undertaken as part of my PhD. The general conclusions may be more broadly applicable, but there is still further work needed in order understand the differences and distinct national characters of the Fair Trade movement as it has developed in Europe, USA, Australia and the producer countries of the global South.


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  • 1. Matthew Anderson www.researchfairtrade.com Fair Trade Partners in Development? A reassessment of trading partnerships within the Fair Trade model
  • 2. Fair Trade development: An historical narrative ‘ The movement needs to develop better structural protections against the co-optation and dilution of fair trade by parties who do not have its long-term interests at heart.’ Daniel Jaffee (2007). ‘ Instead, it has entailed the emergence of a distinctly different development model for the fair trade network based on the abandonment of its statist orientation and the strengthening of its neo-Smithian market orientation to conform to the demands of neoliberal globalisation.’ Gavin Fridell (2007).
  • 3. Overview
    • Development and Trade - Oxfam
    • Christian Mission – Tearcraft & Traidcraft
    • Development Education – Campaign Co-op
    • Political Solidarity – Twin Trading
  • 4. Development and Trade In 1967 Oxfam’s imports from the ‘Third World’ were consolidated to form Helping by Selling. In June 1975 Oxfam launched a new trading venture Bridge . Bridge’s mission was ‘to provide the best possible employment, earnings, working and social environments for producers; and fair prices, quality and service for customers’. By 1988 Bridge sales amounted to £6.5 million. Crafts were being purchased from more than 30 countries and sold in more than 600 Oxfam shops. ‘ It is necessary to persuade our organisers and supporters to be less worried about the profit from this operation and to see it much more clearly as a form of aid’. Guy Stringer, Oxfam’s Commercial Director (1970).
  • 5. Christian Mission In 1974, in response to the unfolding crisis in Bangladesh, Tear Fund started importing local handicrafts to sell in Britain. In February 1975 the first catalogue was sent out to Tear Fund supporters. In 1979 Richard Adams left Tearcraft and established a new ATO called Traidcraft. By 1988, 1,500 Traidcraft representatives were active and were achieving sales worth £1.5 million a year (41 per cent of Traidcraft’s total sales). ‘ There was no area of our work where there was not endless scope for applying our faith yet few areas where we could lay claim to a definitive approach.’ Richard Adams, Traidcraft
  • 6. Development Education In 1976, Campaign Co-op (Oxford) imported its first shipment of coffee from Tanzania. After its early success this organisation only lasted 2 years In 1978, a new group formed, Campaign Co-op (London) backed by Lewisham World Shop and Christian Aid. In November 1978, Campaign Co-op (London) began importing coffee from Tanzania. This coffee was called ‘Campaign Coffee’. In 1981, Campaign Co-op moved its offices from London to Edinburgh and shortly afterwards changed its name to Equal Exchange. Campaign Co-op’s aim was to sell ‘Third World’ commodities in such a way as to raise awareness of consumers about issues of Britain's relationship with the ‘Third World’.
  • 7. Political Solidarity ‘ Our problems are the same. We both suffer from unaccountable activities of the giant transnational companies. We are both seeking to find an alternative framework for international economic links and we know there is a great unexplored potential for trade and exchange between us.’ Ken Livingstone (Feb 1985) In 1984 the Greater London Council (GLC) established a Third World project within its Industry and Employment branch. In February 1985, Ken Livingstone, opened Twin Trading’s inaugural conference. Despite its abolition in March 1986, the GLC still succeeded in allocating a lump sum of £690,247 to be held in a trust which could be used to make payments to cover Twin Trading’s expenditure for its first four years. In 1991, in partnership with Equal Exchange, Traidcraft and Oxfam, Twin successfully launched Cafédirect.
  • 8. Conclusions ‘ Scholars and observers may be able to easily spot the “potential” for representation but the challenges for group leaders to put potential into “practice” are often immense’. Darren Halpin (2006).
  • 9. Matthew Anderson www.researchfairtrade.com [email_address]