Fair Trade and Ethical Trade: State of the Movement

Spring 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016 to Friday, February 19, 2016

What comes to mind when you think of fair and ethical trade?

  • An economic system striving for justice.
  • Fair, livable wages for producers.
  • Sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
  • Coffee, chocolate, wine and artisan crafts.

Through multiple lens and viewpoints, we will provide analysis of the state of fair trade today and explore the future of the movement together.

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Course materials

Module Materials

Learning Objectives

Learn about the current state of the fair trade movement from the perspective of scholars and practitioners.

Consider multiple viewpoints on the impact of fair trade in addressing global poverty.

Examine possibilities for the future of fair and ethical trade and broader aspects of fair labor and supply chains.

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Primary Resources

A Practitioner Viewpoint

Fair Trade: The Long Journey That Informs the Current Reality

This 2-page article from the Spring 2012 edition of Fair World Project offers a good framework and basis to understand the history, successes and challenges of Fair Trade - as a term for a social movement focused on sustainability and fairness.  As much as it describes a return to society’s historic roots, it is also about trade relationships in the supply chain for food.   Jonathan Rosenthal thoughtfully presents his assessment – “what we have ended up with is what I might call ‘less unfair trade’” – and challenges all to start conversations about power and systems of oppression in organizations and networks. 


Interview with Jonathan Rosenthal

In this 42-minute video published on February 26, 2014, Jonathan Rosenthal, co-founder of Equal Exchange, takes the viewer on a multi-faceted educational journey through the world of community and food.  Rosenthal talks about healthy food and nutrition, the business of food (agriculture and trade relationships), the role and rights of consumers, and the contrary trends of food insecurity (think in terms of food deserts) and vibrant food movements (ex. urban farming and aquaculture).  Underlying this, he helps to reframe our relationship to food using the language of a social entrepreneur and a builder of a values-based organization and sustainable movement. 


The State of Fair Trade

CRS University Director, Dr. Kim Lamberty, interviews  industry thought leader Jonathan Rosenthal to discuss the state of fair trade and where it's headed in the future. 17 minutes 48 seconds.


Catholic Relief Services Perspective

Fair Trade brings new perks to coffee’s homeland

Watch this new, 4-minute video produced by CRS.  In partnership with Keurig Green Mountain, CRS is helping traditional coffee farms in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda to improve their coffee quality so farmers can access more profitable international fair trade and specialty coffee markets. Without the know-how, farmers couldn’t get a good price for their coffee, which years ago used to pay their way almost entirely. But prices since plunged. Now farmers produce a high-quality niche product, and have diversified their farms so they have food and income all year round.


The Human Thread

The Human Thread is a campaign to raise consciousness and empower Catholics to advocate for the plight of garment workers worldwide. Their cause is simple: “Things have a price and can be for sale. But people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things." Follow the Way by taking the pledge and exploring other resources. Explore the issue through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching.


The Power Behind Your Purchase

Have you ever considered who made your clothes, jewelry or food? There is a person behind each of these products. Learn about the importance of our purchasing decisions and hear about women whose lives have changed thanks to better business. Explore CRS's Ethical Trade website -- watch the video The Power Behind Your Purchase (El Poder Detras De Tu Compra) (either in English or Spanish, 2:26 minutes) and access A reflection and discussion guide and Prayer Card.


A View From the Academy

A Debate: (Scholar and Practitioners)

Research finds Fairtrade fails the poorest workers in Ethiopia and Uganda

SOAS University of London is the only Higher Education institution in Europe specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. Clicking on this link will allow viewers to read SOAS’s summary comments (published May 24, 2014) and access the full 143-page report (published in April 2014.)


Fairtrade International’s Question & Answer

Response to the  SOAS Report "Fairtrade, Employment and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia and Uganda".  This is a short-summary response from Fairtrade International (FTI) (dated May 20, 2014) to the SOAS report.  Also accessible from this webpage is FTI’s official response (dated May 16, 2014), a perspective written by Fairtrade CEO Harriet Lamb on the challenging task of 'Unpeeling the Impacts of Poverty' on the Huffington Post (originally posted on May 28, 2014), and a 3-minute video interview of Harriet Lamb on Al Jazeera.


Global Journalist

This edition of Global Journalist  takes a look at the growth of the Fair Trade movement, and how well it’s achieving its goal.  This 27-minute video, published on July 9, 2015, provides the perspectives of: 

  • Christopher Cramer, a professor of political economy at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London 

  • Rob Everts, co-director of Equal Exchange, a co-operative fair trade company that sells coffee, cocoa and other fair trade products

  • Poul Mark, founder of Transcend Coffee, a coffee roasting company and distributor in Canada


The Future – The Rights Of Workers

Secondary Resources
  • "Handbook of Research on Fair Trade" Edited by Laura T. Raynolds, Co-Director, Center for Fair & Alternative Trade and Professor, Sociology Department, Colorado State University and Elizabeth A. Bennett, Assistant Professor, International Affairs Department, Lewis & Clark College and Associate, Center for Fair & Alternative Trade, Colorado State University, US.  Fair trade critiques the historical inequalities inherent in international trade and seeks to promote social justice by creating alternative networks linking marginalized producers (typically in the global South) with progressive consumers (typically in the global North). This unique and wide-ranging Handbook analyzes key topics in fair trade, illuminating major theoretical and empirical issues, assessing existing research, evaluating central debates and identifying critical unanswered questions. The first of its kind, this volume brings together 43 of the foremost fair trade scholars from around the world and across the social sciences. The Handbook serves as both a comprehensive overview and in-depth guide to dominant perspectives and concerns. Chapters analyze the rapidly growing fair trade movement and market, exploring diverse initiatives and organizations, production and consumption regions, and food and cultural products. Written for those new to fair trade as well as those well versed in this domain, the Handbook is an invaluable resource for scholars and practitioners interested in global regulation, multi-stakeholder initiatives, social and environmental certification, ethical labeling, consumer activism and international development.  CRS is examining if we can use articles from this in our primary resource section, but given cost and copyright issues, we are currently just posting a link to how to purchase the book or invite your school's library to do so.  (608 pages)
  • Women in Ghana find an innovative way to flourish” by Dr. Meghan J. Clark.  Meghan J. Clark is an assistant professor of theology at St. John’s University in New York. She is author of The Vision of Catholic Social Thought: The Virtue of Solidarity and the Praxis of Human Rights (Fortress).  In this article which appeared in the October 2015 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 80, No. 10, page 8), Clark discusses how women, who sell fair trade crafts, participate in a CRS program called Savings and Internal Lending Communities, or SILC.  
  • Bruce Crowther discusses his examination of the slave trade in correlation to fair trade.  (12-minute video) Bruce, included in the former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's book Everyday Heroes, was awarded the MBE for services to Fairtrade and Oxfam. He now serves as Executive Director for the FIG Tree and acts as the International Fair Trade Towns Ambassador for the International Fair Trade Towns Steering Committee. 
  • In a 31-minute video,Taza Chocolate co-founder Alex Whitmore and Fair Trade pioneer Jonathan Rosenthal discuss the strengths and challenges of the Direct Trade and Fair Trade sourcing models at the Taza factory in September 2012. 
  • Fairtrade International CEO Harriet Lamb delivers the first keynote address of the 9th International Fairtrade Towns Conference held in Bristol, UK at the end of June 2015. In this 23-minute video, Lamb discusses fair trade from the context of sustainability development goals and the urgent imperative to find more inclusive ways to run the economy to be fair to people and the planet. 
If You Want to Know More

This link connects readers with CRS Ethical Trade’s homepage.  

This link connects readers with prayers, a video, learning resources, actions, giving, and technical resources.  At the bottom are links to two CRS publications on climate change, A Catholic Perspective on Climate Change and A Catholic Response to Global Warning.  



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