Chapter 15: Fair trade and mainstreaming
The expansion of fair trade sales beyond the radical venues where the movement was born has generated much debate. On the one hand, it has been described as a success. In this way of thinking, sales growth and participation of supermarket chains and transnational firms can be considered levers for generating benefits for producers’ organizations and evidence that fair trade is not a form of charity. For instance, Max Havelaar France, the French member of Fairtrade International, displays on its website the growing number of licensed traders and of certified products, the growing value of their sales and the number of certified producers’ organizations that export to the French market. It advertises that in 2012, Max Havelaar France’s 345 million euros in Fairtrade sales benefited some 400 producers’ organizations in the global South (Max Havelaar France 2014). On the other hand, the expansion of fair trade sales into mainstream markets is argued to have compromised the efficacy of fair trade as a tool of ethical consumption and to have degraded the quality of relationships in fair trade supply chains. As we shall see, this kind of accusation has been made by researchers as well as some fair trade promoters. In France, the strategy of Max Havelaar France has been widely criticized by activists and organizations like Minga, which dispute the sale of fair trade products in supermarkets and collaboration with transnational companies like Nestlé.
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