Chapter 17: Retailers, corporate ethics and fair trade
The past few decades since the 1980s have witnessed a ‘retail revolution’ (Bromley and Thomas 1993; Neilson and Pritchard 2007). This phenomenon has included the expansion of large retail transnational corporations (TNCs), a shift in the balance of power from manufacturers to retailers in supply chains and the development of sophisticated and strongly branded retail store operations in the context of an increasingly consumer-driven and services-led global economy. In the grocery retail sector, brands such as Walmart, Tesco and Carrefour have become key economic actors and household names not only in their home economies of the United States, the United Kingdom and France respectively, but also in countries where they have expanded operations throughout Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia (Wrigley et al. 2005). This transformation provides the changing commercial context with which Fairtrade has recently engaged. Whereas the 1980s and 1990s for the most part saw the growth of retail corporations and the development of Fairtrade occur quite separately, since the turn of the 21st century their pathways have coincided. From the early 2000s the Fairtrade movement, originally set up in opposition to capitalist business models, began to engage with retail corporations associated with them. This engagement represents a crucial part of the contested and hotly debated process of Fairtrade mainstreaming (see also chapters by Ronan Le Velly, Darryl Reed and Peter Utting in this volume).