Colorado State Sociologists Lead Scholarly Investigation of Fair Trade

Two Colorado State University faculty members have teamed up to explore the challenges and potential of realizing global fair trade. In their co-edited book, "Fair Trade: The Challenges of Transforming Globalization," sociology professors Laura T. Raynolds and Douglas L. Murray (with third co-editor John Wilkinson of the Rural Federal University in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) examine efforts to enhance social justice and environmental sustainability on a global scale through market-based social change.

Fair trade links food consumers and agricultural producers across the global north/south divide in an attempt to overcome the problems of increased poverty, social discontent and environmental destruction attributed to contemporary global trade. The book reveals the challenges the movement faces in its effort to transform globalization, emphasizing the inherent tensions in working both in, and against, the market. It explores fair trade’s recent rapid growth into new production regions, markets and commodities through case studies of Europe, North America, Africa and Latin America.

Bringing together many of the leading researchers in the field, the book develops global commodity and value chain analysis, convention and social movement approaches through a series of case studies and synthesis chapters. The book explores the pressures for more radical or more moderate approaches and how they intertwine with the movement’s historical vision. Raynolds and Murray connect the book’s analytical and empirical strands in a final chapter on the future of fair trade in the global north and south.

"There are changes underway in fair trade that mirror and in some ways anticipate more profound changes ahead in the global economy" said Murray, co-author and co-director of Colorado State’s Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies. "Black South African farm workers are turning fair trade to fill their need for land and livelihoods in the wake of the brutal effects of apartheid, while desperately poor Brazilian peasants are applying the movement to the development of local markets and sustainable farming initiatives to create more vibrant and sustainable communities. Meanwhile, northern entrepreneurs are challenging their corporate colleagues to take ever more bold steps in altering the unjust effects of long-standing business practices."

The book demonstrates how creating fairer trade has become a common goal for people around the world, said Raynolds, who also is co-director of the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies.

"Fair trade represents a critique of social and environmental injustices and a concrete avenue for making the world better," Raynolds said. "Fair trade’s rising popularity suggests that concerned citizens across the globe may, in varied but related ways, be forging a fairer future. As our book makes clear, transforming globalization is no easy task, but the Fair Trade movement proves it is worth our best efforts."

While recognizing that the movement faces problems – and perhaps even serious limits – the authors argue that fair trade has much to tell us about the potential for a more humane and environmentally sound course of globalization in the decades ahead.

For more information about the book and other projects of the Center for Fair and Alternative Trade Studies, go to