Speaker: Dr Alex Nicholls, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship
Discussant: Mr Ian Bretman, Fair Trade Foundation
Chair: Dr Ian Goldin, Oxford Martin School
Over the past ten years the market for Fair Trade products has grown at double digit rates across many countries in the North. As a consequence, Fair Trade is today the most significant example of a social enterprise entering mainstream markets. Furthermore, the Fair Trade model has had an influence beyond its own particular markets by playing an important role both specifically in establishing the ‘ethical consumer’ as a viable market segment and in exposing exploitation across mainstream supply chains to the public more generally. Fair Trade has its roots in a range of social movements that campaigned for trade justice, often within a strong religious (Christian) framework. This paper explores the micro-process through which Fair Trade has been transformed from a social movement focussing on advocacy against mainstream corporations to a market-embedded model of ethical consumption often working in cooperation with mainstream retailers and wholesale brands. It suggests that the development of Fair Trade certification standard and its attendant label provided the boundary spanning mechanism by which mainstreaming was facilitated. However, it is also proposed that this process, and its ongoing development, present challenges for Fair Trade as a movement that may have serious future implications.
Biography: Alex Nicholls MBA is the first lecturer in social entrepreneurship appointed at the University of Oxford and was the first staff member of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in 2004. Nicholls’ research interests range across several key areas within social entrepreneurship, including: the interface between the public and social sectors; organizational legitimacy and governance; the development of social finance markets; and impact measurement and innovation. He is the co-author of the most widely cited, and best-selling, research book on Fair Trade (with Charlotte Opal, Sage, 2005), as well as seven other peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters on the subject. He is also a non-Executive Director of a major Fair Trade clothing company.
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