The governance of fair trade social enterprises in Belgium

Benjamin Huybrechts (Centre d'Economie Sociale, HEC – Liège Management School, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium)

Social Enterprise Journal

ISSN: 1750-8614

Publication date: 17 August 2010



The purpose of this paper is to address the governance of “fair trade social enterprises” (FTSEs), i.e. the organisations exclusively dedicated to the import, distribution and/or labelling of fairly traded products. The aims are to describe and categorise the types of persons and stakeholder groups represented in FTSEs' governance structures and to look at the link between stakeholder involvement and other organisational features such as resources, goals and activities.


These questions are investigated through a qualitative field study based on face‐to‐face interviews with the managers of 15 Belgian FTSEs.


The paper distinguishes three governance models each entailing different governance paradigms: the managerial model, the volunteer‐based and the multi‐stakeholder models. In the three governance models, it is possible to link, to a certain extent, the composition of the governance structures, the access to resources and the goal priorities regarding the different dimensions of the FT activity. In brief, governance appears as an organisational entry revealing much information about the vision and the strategy of the FTSEs.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is limited to Belgian FTSEs and must be considered as one of the first attempts in characterising the specific features and challenges of organisational governance in the FT context. International comparative studies exploring FTSE's governance in a more longitudinal perspective, combining the standpoints of diverse organisational actors, would be most welcome in the future.


As this paper shows, the multidimensional nature of FT and the coexistence of different types of FTSEs in the same country make this a very interesting field to investigate the challenges of governance in social enterprises. Social enterprises and those researching them should pay more attention to the importance of adopting and conceiving governance schemes that are adapted to their multiple missions and enable the access to multiple resources.



Huybrechts, B. (2010), "The governance of fair trade social enterprises in Belgium", Social Enterprise Journal, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 110-124.

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