The recent departure of Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) from Fairtrade International is the most seismic event in the fair trade movement in the past decade. This paper aims to analyse recent dynamics between and within multiple fair trade strands and the attendant changes in vision and approach.
The authors use and develop a framework focusing on the relationship between business and development to analyse the dominant narratives and practices of each different strand of fair trade. To unpack the various fair trade narratives, they have conducted a narrative analysis of policy documents and online debates in the wake of the split in the fair trade movement and they draw on recent impact studies.
The politicising narrative in fair trade stresses governance and voice based on clear structures of representation within the standards body, and recognizes the value of development inputs that do not focus solely on technical and quality development, but lead to organisational advocacy and representational capacity of producer organisations and the regional networks. In contrast “pragmatism” focuses more on economic empowerment and using the market to drive change, an approach that is gaining greater traction with the split of FTUSA from FLO, the most prominent body within Fairtrade International.
The analysis raises implications with regards to how impact analysis captures both the pragmatic and politicising narratives.
The paper's originality/value lies in its novel use of narrative analysis and its early analysis of the shifting dynamics within fair trade precipitated by the departure of FTUSA.
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