Are Fair Trade Organizations necessarily Social Enterprises?

Benjamin Huybrechts and Jacques Defourny
Publication Date: 
Fair Trade organisations (FTOs) have been taken quite early as examples of Social Enterprises (SE) and have contributed to the shaping of the SE concept. The goal of this article is to examine more deeply the link between FTOs and SE, both at a conceptual and at an empirical level.
• Approach: First, we introduce different theoretical frameworks of SE and confront FT to each of these frameworks. In a second step, we use an empirical study on FTOs across four European countries to illustrate and deepen the links between FT and SE, focusing on the goals and the governance structures of FTOs. • Findings: All the FTOs combine in some way economic, social and sometimes also political goals. FTOs are thus coherent to the “hybrid goals” nature of SEs. FTOs’ governance is also quite specific and often innovative in terms of organisational architecture and stakeholders’ involvement. Some FTOs are closer to the European –participatory – approach while others are closer to US – individual – approaches. Finally, the governance structures of FTOs seem to reflect quite well their goal mix. • Research implications: This article provides a more solid basis for the often implicit link between FT and SE. Future researches could use our work to explore specific topics of the SE literature in the context of FT (e.g. stakeholders’ involvement). The FT example could also be used to examine further the shifting boundaries of the SE reality. • Originality/value: The originality of this article is to apply the SE concept to a specific field and to show how, within this field, there is at the same time (1) a diversity of organisations, reflecting the diversity of SE approaches and (2) a range of specific features (especially in terms of goal mix and governance) distinguishing SEs from other types of organisations.