A Short History of Fairtrade Certification Governance
By Elizabeth Bennett
Researchers debate whether today’s Fairtrade mark honors or bastardizes the intentions of Fairtrade pioneers. Their arguments are often based on assertions about Fairtrade governance, the complex system of processes and practices used to make high- level decisions about certifying Fairtrade. However, extant literature on how Fairtrade’s organizational structure and institutional norms have evolved lacks methodological rigor, explanatory accounts, and comprehensive detail. This chapter provides a historical narrative that improves upon these shortcomings. This research is based on data from four sources: literature from Fairtrade labeling organizations; academic publications; personal memoirs of key actors; and over 100 original interviews with a diverse spectrum of key actors. The interviewees provided feedback on the narrative, helping to vet this chapter as the first rigorous historical account of Fairtrade governance.