Uniting Research, Policy and Practice in Fair Trade BRASS, Cardiff (April 2009) Matthew Anderson www.researchfairtrade.com...
Outline <ul><li>Networking for Fair Trade </li></ul><ul><li>Methodology and Sources </li></ul><ul><li>Chronology: Challeng...
‘ Networks are based on cooperation rather than competition, and have the advantage that they allow for the independence o...
Methodology and Sources
Developing an Online Database http://www.dango.bham.ac.uk/
Chronology:  Challenging the Established Historical Framework  Charities, such as Oxfam, started selling crafts made by re...
Limits of Consumer Choice? ‘ Fair Trade is entirely a consumer choice model, it operates within the larger free trade mode...
‘ Choice-editing’ - Council Procurement Oliver Le Brun, Director of TWIN and Twin Trading, Bridges Not Fences: Report of t...
‘ Choice-editing’ -  Major Switches to Fairtrade  ‘ The public has taken Fairtrade to its heart, and so we’re delighted th...
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Uniting Research, Policy and Practice in Fair Trade, Cardiff (April 2009)

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I have two main objectives for this presentation firstly to briefly outline some of the main findings of my recently submitted PhD thesis: ‘The British Fair Trade Movement, 1960 to 2000: a new form of global citizenship? And secondly, to raise some questions that may suggest areas for further research.

This project was based on archive research of all the main organisations involved in developing Fair Trade, both as a campaign tool and as a trading model, including: The Co-operative and ICA, TUC, Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Campaign Coffee, Anti-Apartheid Movement, New Consumer, Ethical Consumer Research Association, Traidcraft, Twin Trading and the Fairtrade Foundation.

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  • I have two main objectives for this presentation firstly to briefly outline some of the main findings of my recently submitted PhD thesis: ‘The British Fair Trade Movement, 1960 to 2000: a new form of global citizenship? And secondly, to raise some questions that may suggest areas for further research.
  • Michael Barratt Brown at a TWIN conference in 1988 stated that, ‘Networks are based on cooperation rather than competition, and have the advantage that they allow for the independence of all the various units gathered together in the network. But they don’t happen spontaneously. There have to be networkers.’ It is the role of these networkers that have been the main focus of my research. I have been interested in how a diverse range of groups representing Christian agencies, Alternative Trade Organisations (ATOs), campaign organisations and consumer groups developed networkers to implement and raise awareness of Fairtrade.
  • As a historian by training, I have felt obliged to base the majority of my research on ‘primary sources’. These have ranged from catalogues and campaign material to internal memos and financial reports. I have been granted research access to all the of main organisations involved in developing Fair Trade, both as a campaign tool and as a trading model, including: The Co-operative and ICA, TUC, Oxfam, Christian Aid, CAFOD, Campaign Coffee, Anti-Apartheid Movement, New Consumer, Ethical Consumer Research Association, Traidcraft, Twin Trading and the Fairtrade Foundation.
  • One of the first practical outputs of my research was that it allowed me to contribute to the development of the DANGO database project. This project set out to survey the current archive holdings of British NGOs. Questionnaires were sent out to over 3,000 NGOs, asking about the types of records they held and the current access arrangements made for academic research. This database currently holds full archive records for 1,700 NGOs and work is still ongoing. (Unfortunately the Fairtrade Foundation has chosen not to be featured on the DANGO database, although most of its member organisation are listed). Projects such as this one raise a number of questions for NGOs and FT companies about how to respond to the increased academic interest in FT. There are clearly some tensions between demonstrating transparency and the restrictions of commercial sensitivity. But to refuse all academic requests is probably short sighted. One possible option would be to bequeath an archive to a university where control over access arrangements could still be maintained, but responsibility for indexing, document preservation and academic enquiries would be dealt with by the university library. For instance Christian Aid’s archives are held by SOAS and new records regularly deposited.
  • Most researchers have accepted the established chronology of Fair Trade that depicts four waves beginning with the post second world war period; followed by the emergence of ATOs in the 1970s; the involvement of naturally sympathetic retailers such as The Co-operative in the early 1990s; and the mainstreaming of Fairtrade from the late 1990s onwards. But this model is based on a series of incomplete internal histories. It is important to be able to return to the original records of individual organisations and study them within the context of the development of the FT movement as a whole. So why is it important to establish a comprehensive academic history of FT? Too many assumptions have been made about the early trading initiatives, such as Oxfam in the UK, and this has sometimes led to an idealised picture of trading relations. In turn this has led some academics to be overly critical about what they see as a shift away from the true values of the movement in recent years. Arguably the movement’s legitimacy partly rests on the experience of campaigning and trading it has built up over more the thirty years, but this may be undermined if the origins of these values cannot be expressed with certainty. If we take Oxfam as a case study, we soon find that the archives reveal a more complex story than is suggested by the established chronology of Fair Trade. The ongoing negotiations and tensions that were present within Oxfam about how to position its international trading programme are seldom addressed in academic literature. And as a result, Oxfam’s involvement with Fair Trade is simply assumed to date back to its first importing programme. But I will argue that this is not necessarily the case and important lessons can be learnt about how we define Fair Trade from looking at the different trading models implemented over this period. Although Oxfam initiated some ad hoc trading ventures from the 1950s, it was not until 1967 that these activities were formalised and brought together to form Helping by Selling (HbS). HbS was a commercial success and by 1974 was achieving profits of £90,000 on sales of £343,564. But HbS was trading along essentially commercial lines; products imported from the Third World were to be stocked in Oxfam’s growing network of shops and were sold for a profit which would then contribute towards Oxfam international development budget. Oxfam’s main justification for the existence of HbS was that it was responding to the need for employment across the Third World. But it is not clear that this genuinely represented an alternative model of trade, even if it was an NGO that owned the trading company. Many multinational corporations (MNCs) used the same argument to justify their presence in oppressive regimes, including South Africa. In 1972, Roy Scott, an Oxfam Trading manager, began work on creating a new type of trading venture. Scott believed that HbS was only, ‘a very limited “fair-trade” importing programme’. He argued that HbS was too close to the trading values of commercial importers and, in a drive to make profit, they were ignoring the development potential of international trade. Instead, he argued that Oxfam’s trading operations should act as a practical demonstration of, ‘the kind of socially “ideal” trade system most supporters of the Third World believe is necessary’. It was not until June 1975, when the new subsidiary company ‘Bridge’ was launched, was there evidence of a genuine attempt to prioritise a more equal relationship between the producer and consumer. Bridge’s mission statement from November 1975 stated it was, ‘dedicated towards providing the best possible employment, earnings, working and social environments for producers; and fair prices, quality and service for customers’. Oxfam was now committed to an international trade programme that went beyond the considerations of commercial buyers in order to ensure that those producers making goods, imported and sold by Oxfam, would receive a ‘fair’ return for their work. If the 1950s were something of a false start, then by the 1970s, fair trade was up and running. This assessment should not detract from Oxfam’s vital contribution in pioneering Fair Trade, but it suggests that academics need to look beyond the 1960s for the origins of the movement.
  • Give the consumer choice has been the retailing mantra of modern age. Newspaper reports about the growth of Fairtrade in Britain have typically focused their attention on the role played by the British shopper. Journalists have reported that, ‘Britons over the past decade have become a nation of ethical shoppers.’ Some have looked to investigate, ‘How consumer power sparked a Fairtrade revolution on our high streets.’ Many academics have also followed this line of enquiry. Alex Nicholls and Charlotte Opal argue that ‘Fair Trade is entirely a consumer choice model, it operates within the larger free trade model of unregulated international commerce’. My research into the member organisations of the FTF has suggested that an alternative approach may well be more fruitful. I argue that the emergence of fair trade in late twentieth century Britain has only partly been the result of ‘the market’ responding to consumer demand and equally significant was the network of NGOs and ATOs. In contrast to the well documented consumer actions of the past - from food riots to boycotts, the origins of FT cannot be traced to an apparently spontaneous moment of consumer action. Instead, the growth of FT has relied heavily on NGOs and ATOs that have worked (since the early 1970s) to develop international supply chains and distribution networks, raise awareness of living and working conditions for producers in the ‘Third World’ and have engaged with retailers to persuade them to stock Fair Trade products. Drawing on his research findings of contemporary US campaigns targeting Starbucks, Michael Goodman has argued that ‘Activist groups are the fundamental vanguard fostering fair trade markets.’ Further he has stated that, ‘Fair Trade is more of a consumer-dependent movement for change rather than a consumer led movement.’ So are there limits to how far consumer choice can be seen as driver for change? Tim Lang has certainly argued that this is the case. Lang calls for a move away from consumer power, stating that consumers can’t be relied on to do the right thing. Lang’s solution is ‘choice editing’ – removing ethical hazards before a product reaches the consumer. The 2006 Sustainable Consumption Roundtable report, ‘Looking Forward Looking Back’, endorses Lang’s assessment, stating that, ‘The evidence suggests that, historically, the green consumer has not been the tipping point in driving innovation. Instead, choice editing for quality and sustainability by Government and business has been the critical driver in the majority of cases.’ This critique of individual action and consumer choice could be seen as a challenge to Fair Trade; but as with green consumerism, there is evidence that ‘choice editing’ has already been a significant driver for Fair Trade. The following two sections will explore local authority procurement and switches to Fairtrade by major brands in the context of ‘choice editing’.
  • Council support is an important part of the Fairtrade Town scheme. It includes a requirement that councils serve at least FT tea and coffee at their meetings. But despite these relatively limited procurement targets, some Conservative councils have objects, arguing that FT should be a matter for individual consumer choice and not directed by councils. It is clear that ‘choice editing’ is a more controversial proposition than consumer choice and raises a number of political issues. This does not necessarily mean that it should not be pursued, but the implications for this message is communicated will need to be carefully considered. There are some interesting parallels with the early involvement of local authorities with FT, most notably the GLC, which in 1984 established a Third World Project within its Industry and Employment Branch. This project looked to explore the potential for developing alternative trade links with Third World producers to supply Londoners with a range of goods. Tim Lang, on the London Food Commission contributed to the project. He noted that, ‘Many progressive councils have used food purchase in the past for defensive aims (e.g. banning South African foodstuffs in schools) but rarely for progressive aims.’ This project also looked beyond London and the first conference was attended by representatives from 10 local authorities across the country. The main areas focused on were: 1. Civic Catering – relatively small volumes, but symbolically important. 2. Social Services – 1982-3 nearly 41 million meals were served to elderly residents across the UK. 3. Schools – over 600 million meals were provided annually across the UK. With the abolition of the GLC in 1986, some of the more ambitions objectives of the Third World project were soon sidelined. But a lasting legacy of this programme was Twin Trading. The GLC managed to secure £700,000 to be held in trust (so-called ‘tombstone funding’) which covered TWIN’s expenses for its first 4 years.
  • Over the last 6 months two major switches to FT have been announced, Starbucks in November 2008 and Cadbury Dairy Milk in March 2009. Both of these moves have been the result of considerable work and lobbying by the Fairtrade Foundation. These moves demonstrate that the Fairtrade Foundation has effectively engaged in a strategy of ‘choice editing’ in its relations with commercial partners – even if this not the terminology that the Fairtrade Foundation would use to describe these FT switches. It is interesting to note that this is not a new strategy. In June 1992, 2 years prior to the launch of the FT Mark, the Fairtrade Foundation was in talks with Typhoo tea. Richard Adams, leading the negotiations, stated that ‘in some respects this is our dream ticket. A high profile national brand which has been modified to meet FT criteria and also has a range of own label products covering a large part of the main grocery market.’ In 1991 the UK tea market was valued at £731m and Premier Tea accounted for 14% of UK sales. Although this deal eventually fell through and the FT Mark was instead launched on Green &amp; Black’s Maya Gold chocolate followed by Cafédirect. What this incident shows was that, from the outset, the Fairtrade Foundation’s strategy was to engage with big business and push for the conversion of major brands – there was no intention of remaining just an ethical niche.
  • Uniting Research, Policy and Practice in Fair Trade, Cardiff (April 2009)

    1. 1. Uniting Research, Policy and Practice in Fair Trade BRASS, Cardiff (April 2009) Matthew Anderson www.researchfairtrade.com From the Margins to the Mainstream: Plotting the Trajectory of Fair Trade in Britain
    2. 2. Outline <ul><li>Networking for Fair Trade </li></ul><ul><li>Methodology and Sources </li></ul><ul><li>Chronology: Challenging the Established Historical Framework </li></ul><ul><li>Limits of Consumer Choice? </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Choice-editing’ </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Council Procurement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- Major Switches to Fairtrade </li></ul></ul>
    3. 3. ‘ Networks are based on cooperation rather than competition, and have the advantage that they allow for the independence of all the various units gathered together in the network. But they don’t happen spontaneously. There have to be networkers.’ Michael Barratt Brown, 'Who Cares About Fair Trade?', Report of Conference on Development, Trade and Cooperation, 4 September 1988, Conway Hall, London (Published by TWIN, December 1988), p.3. Networking for Fair Trade
    4. 4. Methodology and Sources
    5. 5. Developing an Online Database http://www.dango.bham.ac.uk/
    6. 6. Chronology: Challenging the Established Historical Framework Charities, such as Oxfam, started selling crafts made by refugees ATOs , such as Traidcraft, encourage direct trade with producers avoiding middlemen Naturally sympathetic retailers, such as the Co-op, promote FT to consumers Solidifying growth in the mainstream Market entry of more traditional players 1 st wave 1940s, 1950s 2 nd wave 1970s, 1980s 3 rd wave 1990s 4 th wave Late 1990s+
    7. 7. Limits of Consumer Choice? ‘ Fair Trade is entirely a consumer choice model, it operates within the larger free trade model of unregulated international commerce.’ A. Nicholls & C. Opal, Fair Trade: Market Driven Ethical Consumption , (London: Sage Publications, 2004), p. 31.
    8. 8. ‘ Choice-editing’ - Council Procurement Oliver Le Brun, Director of TWIN and Twin Trading, Bridges Not Fences: Report of the Third World Trade and Technology Conference, (London Feb 1985), p.7. ‘ If we want to develop more direct and permanent trading links between the south and the north we have to open new opportunities for the distribution of Third World products. We have to explore the social market: the supply departments of local authorities, their purchasing associations and civic catering, universities, polytechnics, schools, social services, hospitals, trade unions, labour clubs etc.’
    9. 9. ‘ Choice-editing’ - Major Switches to Fairtrade ‘ The public has taken Fairtrade to its heart, and so we’re delighted that they will soon be able to get 100% Fairtrade certified espresso drinks in Starbucks, from high streets to train stations and workplaces.’ Harriet Lamb, Executive Director, Fairtrade Foundation (26 November 2008) ‘ The Fairtrade Foundation set out an ambitious strategy last year to double its positive impact for producers by 2012.. It is precisely this kind of big commitment by a major player such as Cadbury that could make it possible to achieve these goals.’ Harriet Lamb, Executive Director, Fairtrade Foundation (4 March 2009)
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