Chapter 7: Fairtrade certification, conventions and labor
This chapter seeks to broaden our understanding of the potential and limits of Fairtrade certification for improving labor conditions in large-scale agriculture. Although Fairtrade certification was originally designed to support small-scale coffee farmers, it has expanded to include some 20 different commodities, many of which are produced on large plantations using hired labor. In 2012 there were more than 170_000 workers employed on Fairtrade certified plantations producing items such as flowers, tea, fruits and bananas (Fairtrade International 2012). Over the past decade Fairtrade’s most rapid growth has been in large agricultural enterprises. This expansion of Fairtrade to hired labor situations has caused significant tensions. This chapter contributes to the emerging literature on Fairtrade’s efforts to incorporate plantations and agricultural workers. More specifically it explores what can be gained from using convention theory to analyze Fairtrade’s engagement with hired labor enterprises and its efforts to improve conditions for agricultural workers. Most studies confirm that Fairtrade has brought positive impacts to workers, their households and local communities. Nevertheless, employing a convention theory lens helps us uncover and understand limitations to Fairtrade impacts attributable to the prevalence of particular conventions and the naturalization of specific understandings of what constitutes Fairtrade values. Thus it is argued that Fairtrade, in the implementation of its standards, incorporates more a liberal perception of civic rights than solidarity (which is aimed at greater equality).
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