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Seeking to maintain the integrity of the fair trade model: a case study of Trade Aid importers

Christina Stringer (Department of Management and International Business, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

critical perspectives on international business

ISSN: 1742-2043

Article publication date: 19 October 2012




The movement of profit‐orientated corporations into the fair trade value chain has caused some socially orientated fair trade organizations to question the direction the movement is taking. One organization at the forefront of the debate is Trade Aid (NZ), Inc. (hereafter Trade Aid), a New Zealand based socially orientated fair trade organization actively engaged in fair trade since the 1970s. This paper seeks to evaluate how Trade Aid is seeking to reformulate fair trade's vision of empowerment and partnership constructively.


A single case study approach is undertaken to examine how a socially orientated organization is adhering to and seeking to advance fair trade values. This research draws from the global value chain literature, which analyses how industries are governed. The relational co‐ordination or governance mode, which is characteristic of mutual dependency between supplier and buyer firms, is used as a framework for investigating the fair trade industry. Distinction is made between the corporate and social economy variants of the relational governance mode.


Trade Aid's commitment to producer groups is demonstrated through various initiatives the organization is undertaking as they work both with producer groups and corporate actors to expand the fair trade market. Trade Aid is part of a worldwide socially orientated movement seeking to reformulate the vision of fair trade.


To date the fair trade literature has largely focused on socially orientated fair trade organizations in the Northern hemisphere. This research contributes to a gap in the literature in that it examines Trade Aid and the way this organization is addressing mainstreaming.



Stringer, C. (2012), "Seeking to maintain the integrity of the fair trade model: a case study of Trade Aid importers", critical perspectives on international business, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 295-308.



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