Postcards from the Edge: Maintaining the “Alternative” Character of Fair Trade

Will Low and Eileen Davenport
Publication Date: 
This paper argues that the pressures for fair trade to substantially increase market access for marginalised producers in the Global South and subsequently moving fair trade out of niche into mainstream markets is reshaping the boundaries of the movement.
We suggest going mainstream carries with it the danger of appropriation of the more convenient elements of fair trade by the commercial sector and loss of the more radical edges. This paper examines the changing discourse surrounding fair trade, critically reflecting on the movement’s history to understand how its evolution to date might influence its possible futures. The paper concludes by exploring how various elements within the fair trade movement are trying to retain a radical edge in order to continue to provide a critique of the dominant paradigm of business and trade.