A Taste of Trade Justice: Marketing Global Social Responsibility via Fair Trade Coffee

April Linton, Cindy Chiayuan Liou, and Kelly Ann Shaw
Publication Date: 
The movement to certify and promote fairly traded coffee is one of many effortsaimed at linking social responsibility and free market capitalism. In the wake of a worldwide crisis in which coffee prices have fallen to levels that do not support small-scale production, non-profit Fair Trade certifying and labeling organizations are working to develop a market situation that is sustainable for workers and the environment.
The Fair Trade system promotes living wag for farmers, access to affordable credit, and the adoption and maintenance of environmentally sound practices. Fair Traders marketing efforts seek to influence cultural and political values in such a way that consumers and corporations will have to respond to them by incorporating the welfare of Southern workers into their purchasing decisions. This article discusses and evaluates current strategies for creating and expanding the market for Fair Trade-certified coffee and their outcomes in the United States and Europe. We argue that, while Fair Traders have achieved some laudable goals, they must now address the limits to supply-driven marketing efforts.