Changing Big Business

Changing Big Business

The Globalisation of the Fair Trade Movement

Anna Hutchens

Drawing on candid accounts from practitioners, producers and industry representatives, this informative and proactive volume investigates the challenges facing today’s fair trade movement and provides unique insights into the workings of social and economic power in world markets.

Chapter 5: Fairtrade as Resistance

Anna Hutchens

Subjects: business and management, entrepreneurship, development studies, development studies, economics and finance, international economics


Chapter 4 detailed the rapid growth of the fair trade pioneers’ innovation in the Fairtrade certification system. Those who now administer and govern the expansion of FLO, the Labelling Initiatives (LIs) (formerly National Initiatives – NIs), have an organisational mission to consolidate the Fairtrade system within the wider conventional marketplace. This chapter provides an empirical account and analysis of the distinctive market-oriented path along which these actors have expanded the Fairtrade system. This is also a story about the evolution of ‘resistance’ and how its organisational and political trajectory invites real threats to the prospect of genuine market evolution. The starting point for the conceptual story in this chapter is that within evolutionary economics it is an accepted proposition that innovation has a cyclical or temporary nature (see Nooteboom, 2001). As a new business venture moves towards consolidation, it becomes a more bureaucratic and rigid structure. In this phase, it becomes increasingly challenging for the organisation to exploit new opportunities to ‘capitalise on new ideas’ or adapt effectively to a dynamically changing environment (see Schaper and Volery, 2002; Foster and Metcalfe, 2001; Nooteboom, 2001; Achrol and Kotler, 1999; Robert and Weiss, 1988).1 This is because bureaucratic, hierarchically structured organisations are poor receptors and exploiters of new information. As Achrol and Kotler (1999: 147) suggest, ‘large, vertically integrated hierarchies are inefficient means of governance in knowledge-rich and turbulent environments . . . [a]daption is slow and costly because of entrenched interests eager to preserve their power and prerogatives’. Intent on...

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