Ó Springer 2010
Fair Trade and the Depersonalization of Ethics
´ˆ Jerome Ballet ´ Aurelie Carimentrand
ABSTRACT. Fair Trade has changed considerably since its early days. In this article, we argue that these changes have led to a depersonalization of ethics, thus raising serious questions about the future of Fair Trade. In particular, the depersonalization of ethics which is seen to accompany the current changes has led to greater variety in the interpretations of Fair Trade. Hiding these divergences behind the labels is increasing the risk that the movement will lose its credibility. KEY WORDS: credibility, Fair Trade, relational ethics, traceability ABBREVIATIONS: EFTA: European Fair Trade Association; FLO: Fairtrade labelling organizations International; IFAT: International Fair Trade Association; NEWS!: Network of European World Shops
consensus’’ (from the initials of these four organizations) deﬁned Fair Trade as follows: Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.
International trade disparities and commodity price instability have given rise to a movement in favour of fairer trade. At the international level, the current standard deﬁnition of Fair Trade stems from a consensus amongst four international organizations representative of the Fair Trade movement: Fairtrade labelling organizations International (FLO), the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), the Network of European World Shops (NEWS!) and the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA). In 2001, the ‘‘FINE
´ˆ Dr. Jerome Ballet is a researcher at FREE (Fund for Research in Ethics and Economics) and he is also an Assistant Professor at the Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University (France). He is currently working in Madagascar. ´ Dr. Aurelie Carimentrand is a researcher at FREE (Fund for Research in Ethics and Economics) and at the Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University (France). He is an independent consultant and a member of the FairNESS network.
Beyond this consensus, the development of Fair Trade has been marked by several successive stages (for an historical perspective, see for instance Adams, 1989; Ballet and Carimentrand, 2007; BarrattBrown, 1993; Moore, 2004; Raynolds et al., 2007). All these authors highlight a major shift during the 1980s. Hopes for world transformation had dwindled, and the domination of countries in the North over those in the South had increased further. The development of Fair Trade was stagnating. From the literature, we can see that this period saw the emergence of an economic era with three major characteristics relevant to Fair Trade. First, existing Fair Trade commodity chains underwent a restructuring/rationalization programme. In France, for instance, the local shops of the Artisans du Monde network formed a federation in 1981. In 1984, this federation created the private limited company FamImport to act as an import and distribution platform for all Artisans du Monde shops. In 1994, this central purchasing unit became a public limited company under the name of Solidar’Monde SA. Secondly, this period was also marked by the emergence of new commodity chains with a completely different approach. In 1988, the Max Havelaar Association was created in the Netherlands. It suggested entrusting
´ˆ ´ Jerome Ballet and Aurelie Carimentrand create a sense of belonging to a common network and are associated with a personalization of ethics. As...