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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : World Development, Volume 37, Issue 6, June 2009, Pages 1083–1093
This article analyzes the recent growth of Fair Trade and the mainstreaming of this previously alternative arena. Focusing on coffee, I identify a continuum of buyers ranging from “mission-driven” enterprises that uphold alternative ideas and practices based on social, ecological, and place-based commitments, to “quality-driven” firms that selectively foster Fair Trade conventions to ensure reliable supplies of excellent coffee, to “market-driven” corporations that largely pursue commercial/industrial conventions rooted in price competition and product regulation. Using a commodity network approach, my analysis illuminates the impacts of diverse buyer relations on producer groups and how relations are in some cases shifting from partnership to traceability.
Fair Trade represents a critique of historically rooted international trade inequalities and efforts to create more egalitarian commodity networks linking marginalized producers in the global South with progressive consumers in the global North. The Fair Trade model offers farmers and agricultural workers in the global South better prices, stable market links and resources for social and environmental projects. In the global North, Fair Trade provides consumers with product options that uphold high social and environmental standards and supports advocacy campaigns fostering responsible consumption practices. Though Fair Trade products continue to represent a minor share of the world market, certified sales are worth over US$2 billion and are growing rapidly (FLO, 2007). Fair Trade joins a growing array of market-based initiatives that promote social and environmental concerns through the sale of alternative, often certified, commodities. In this sense, Fair Trade is related to other social certifications found largely in apparel, footwear and other manufactured items and environmental certifications found largely in food, forest, and fiber products (Gereffi, Garcia-Johnson, & Sasser, 2001). Fair Trade distinguishes itself from other efforts in its breadth in incorporating both social and environmental concerns and its depth in tackling both trade and production conditions (Raynolds, 2002). With its rising popularity, Fair Trade has come to represent an important counterpoint to the ecologically and socially destructive relations characteristic of the conventional global food system. Yet this popularity has simultaneously put pressure on what was once an alternative commodity network to become part of the mainstream market, incorporating conventional business norms, practices, and institutions. This article explores the impacts of mainstreaming on what was intended to be a rather unique partnership between Fair Trade buyers and producer groups. I develop a commodity network approach to investigate buyer/supplier relations in certified coffee, Fair Trade’s core arena. The study follows the commodity chain tradition in analyzing the power of dominant buyers in shaping global production and distribution relations (Gereffi, 1994) and the varied nature of buyer/supplier transactions (Gereffi, Humphrey, & Sturgeon, 2005). Yet I expand this approach in emphasizing the role of normative factors and non-economic actors in shaping network relations. My analysis documents the increasing distinction between three types of Fair Trade coffee buyers and their varied supplier relations. “Mission-driven” enterprises promote Fair Trade’s social, ecological, and place-based commitments, supporting organizational and democratic facets of coffee cooperatives and partnership-based trade relations. A new group of “quality-driven” buyers selectively foster Fair Trade principles to ensure reliable supplies of gourmet coffee, rendering trade relations less durable but potentially no less egalitarian if producers’ technical capacity is enhanced. Fair Trade’s sharpest challenge comes from the rise of “market-driven” corporate buyers who may meet audited certification requirements, but otherwise advance mainstream business practices fostering competition and intensive buyer control, causing a shift in network relations from partnership to traceability. My analysis of the internal workings of the Fair Trade coffee sector is located in the secondary literature and draws extensively on primary documents (including organizational websites, publications, and internal documents). Key insights emerge largely from my field research. The perspectives of Fair Trade coffee buyers are distilled from structured and unstructured interviews with representatives of dozens of North American and European Fair Trade coffee importers and roasters and key Fair Trade organizations.1 Analysis of Fair Trade coffee supplier perspectives draws on field research with four cooperatives in Peru and Mexico, which in each case involved semi-structured interviews with four to five cooperative leaders and focus groups with 8–12 members.2 This article focuses on the overall nature of Fair Trade coffee buyer/supplier relations, rather than on the views of specific individuals or groups. To maintain confidentiality and uphold buyer/supplier relations, names are omitted where possible.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
This study illuminates the impacts of the ongoing process of mainstreaming on Fair Trade commodity networks and what was once a rather unique partnership between dedicated importers and producer groups. Initially promoted by alternative trade organizations firmly committed to the movement’s progressive values, Fair Trade’s rising popularity has encouraged the entry of new enterprises into key commodity areas like coffee. Echoing concerns that Fair Trade mainstreaming may bolster market shares while undermining movement principles (Low and Davenport, 2005, Moore et al., 2006 and Raynolds et al., 2007), my findings suggest that some coffee buyers are using Fair Trade labels largely as a vehicle to capture markets and certification largely as a mechanism to enhance traceability. Yet challenging more deterministic readings of mainstreaming, this research (1) identifies significant variations among Fair Trade buyers based on their mix of market and movement priorities and (2) reveals the contested nature of buyer/supplier relations in Fair Trade networks from the perspective of both importers/roasters and producer cooperatives. The article demonstrates the utility of a commodity network approach in unraveling the divergent and multifaceted dimensions of global trade relations. My findings support the commodity chain argument that world markets are governed in significant ways by major buyers (Gereffi, 1994), which in the case of Fair Trade coffee includes both brand-name roasters and retailers (Ponte, 2002). Expanding this tradition’s focus on structural relations and lead firms, the network approach developed here highlights Fair Trade’s discursive as well as structural dimensions and the role of NGOs and certification systems in shaping trade relations. Following the more social constructionist approach advanced in convention studies (Boltanski & Thévenot, 1991), I illuminate the norms and reflexive practices as well as institutions which justify and uphold Fair Trade. My findings confirm the importance of new qualifications, advanced in Fair Trade via informal NGO efforts and formal product certification, in shaping firm relations and consumer attachment to particular products (Callon et al., 2002). Within the Fair Trade coffee sector, mission-driven buyers promote alternative conventions based on social, ecological, and place-based commitments. These enterprises often use certification to position products, but sell only Fair Trade goods and engage progressive values in their internal business models and direct trade with producers. Mission-driven buyers reflexively pursue equality, transparency, and respect in their material as well as narrative practices. Producer groups confirm that these buyers forge important partnerships based on shared values, organizational commonalities, and multifaceted ties. While this pattern of buyer/supplier coordination may be characterized as “relational” in nature (Gereffi et al., 2005), mission-driven buyers are not immune from market pressures and clearly exert their power over suppliers in ratcheting up coffee quality expectations. The growth of gourmet coffee sales and increasing popularity of sustainability labels has fueled the rise of a new segment of quality-driven Fair Trade buyers. These buyers embrace Fair Trade norms of transparency, stable purchasing, pre-financing, and pricing in so far as they foster reliable supplies of excellent coffee. While they espouse progressive social and ecological values, these buyers promote coffee qualification systems founded largely on gourmet specifications and market pricing. Producer groups suggest that quality-driven buyers can create new types of partnerships via collaborative engagements in improving bean quality, capturing gourmet flavors, protecting coffee origins, and bolstering markets. Although gourmet standards may be used by buyers to dictate supply conditions and dominate producers, if quality improvements increase producers’ ability to define their coffee quality and position it in global markets—as for example via regional appellation systems—supplier autonomy and power could be enhanced, promoting “modular” forms of buyer/supplier coordination (Gereffi et al., 2005). Fair Trade’s sharpest challenge comes from the entry of market-driven buyers who vigorously pursue mainstream business norms and practices. Dominant coffee brand corporations limit their Fair Trade engagement to public relations defined minimums, using the FLO label to position themselves and their products within the market. These corporations purchase certified coffee through conventional channels which may meet FLO audited standards and thus benefit producers via higher prices, yet still promote price competition, supplier manipulation, and product regulation. Market-driven buyers appear to offset the control they lose by agreeing to third-party certification by increasing their market power and regulatory control over suppliers, transforming Fair Trade from a mechanism of partnership to one of traceability. In this context, certification may permit loose market ties to be associated with buyer domination (Muradian and Pelupessy, 2005 and Ponte and Gibbon, 2005), creating “captive” buyer/supplier relations (Gereffi et al., 2005). This study contributes to the recent theoretical debates regarding governance in global networks by demonstrating how we can integrate an understanding of (1) macro-level patterns of buyer-driven global trade relations and more micro-level concerns regarding the nature of specific buyer/supplier coordination and (2) the structural features of commodity networks and the actions and norms which uphold or undermine these relations. Gibbon et al. (2008) argue that governance can be conceptualized as either “driving,” “coordinating,” or “normalizing” relations within “global value chains” and that these views are largely incompatible. I propose that these three analytical vantage points can and should be combined to deepen our understanding of network governance. As demonstrated in this analysis, processes of mainstreaming and buyer power shape the context for varied and shifting forms of buyer/supplier relations and how firms and NGOs materially and discursively create, maintain, and potentially challenge network relations, thus merging driving, coordinating, and normalizing forms of governance. From a policy perspective, my findings suggest that Fair Trade buyer/supplier relations are open to negotiation and that contestations over the qualifications of Fair Trade coffee provide important openings for alternative enterprises and relations particularly where new qualities resonate with consumers and can be controlled by producers.