Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 93, Supplement 2, pp 143–162 | Cite as

Fairtrade Facts and Fancies: What Kenyan Fairtrade Tea Tells us About Business’ Role as Development Agent

  • Michael E. BlowfieldEmail author
  • Catherine Dolan


Various promising claims have been made that business can help alleviate poverty, and can do so in ways that add value to the bottom line. This article begins by highlighting that the evidence for such claims is not especially strong, particularly if business is thought of as a development agent, i.e. an organization that consciously and accountably contributes towards pro-poor outcomes. It goes on to ask whether, if we did know more about either the business case or the poverty alleviation case, would this give cause for greater optimism that business could make a significant contribution to development. By exploring the experiences of producers of Fairtrade tea in Kenya, we reveal the complex nature of what constitutes a beneficial outcome for the poor and marginalized, and the gap that can exist between ethical intentions and the experience of their intended beneficiaries. The lessons of these experiences are relevant for Fairtrade and any commercial initiative that seeks to achieve outcomes beneficial and recognizable to the poor, and raise questions about the integration of social and instrumental outcomes that a future generation of ethical entrepreneurship will need to address.


corporate social responsibility Fairtrade international development poverty alleviation 



alternative trade organization


British Department for International Development


Ethical Tea Partnership


Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International


free on board


International Federation for Alternative Trade


International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements


International Labour Organization


Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd


non-government organization


Rainforest Alliance


Social Accountability International


Social Premium Committee


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Africa Research Bulletin: 2007, ‘Burundi Tea’, Africa Research Bulletin: Economic, Financial and Technical Series, 44(9), 17568B–17569A.Google Scholar
  2. Agritrade: 2007, ‘Tea: Executive Brief’, Accessed February 2007.
  3. Amalric, F. and J. Hauser: 2005, ‘Economic Drivers of Corporate Responsibility Activities’, Journal of Corporate Citizenship Winter, 20, 27-38.Google Scholar
  4. Bacon, C.: 2005, ‘Confronting the Coffee Crisis: Can Fair Trade, Organic, and Specialty Coffees Reduce Small-Scale Farmer Vulnerability in Northern Nicaragua?’, World Development 33(3), 497–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrientos, S. and C. Dolan, 2006. ‘Transformation of the Global Food System: Opportunities and Challenges for Fair and Ethical Trade’. In S. Barrientos, S. and C. Dolan (eds.), Ethical Sourcing in the Global Food System. Earthscan, London, pp. 1-33.Google Scholar
  6. Barrientos, S. and Smith, S.: 2007, The ETI Code of Labour Practice: Do Workers Really Benefit? (Institute of Development Studies, Falmer).Google Scholar
  7. Besky, S.: 2008, ‘Can a Plantation be Fair? Paradoxes and Possibilities in Fair Trade Darjeeling Tea Certification’, Anthropology of Work Review 2 (1), 1-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bezençon, V. and S. Blili: 2006, ‘Fair Trade Channels: Are We Killing the Romantics?’, International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability 2(1), 87-196.Google Scholar
  9. Blowfield, M. E.: 2003, Ethical Trade: The Negotiation of a Global Ethic, DPhil Thesis, Department of International Relations, University of Sussex.Google Scholar
  10. Blowfield, M.E.: 2007, ‘Reasons to be Cheerful? What We Know about CSR’s Impact’, Third World Quarterly, 28(4): 683-695.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Blowfield, M. E.: 2008a, ‘Globalization and Poverty’, Business Strategy Review 18(4), 34–41.Google Scholar
  12. Blowfield, M. E.: 2008b, Poverty’s Case for Business: The Evidence, Misconceptions, Conceits and Deceit Surrounding the Business Case. Working Paper No. 5, The Business, Development and Society Network, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  13. Blowfield, M.E.: 2009. ‘Business, Corporate Responsibility, and Poverty’, in Utting and Marques (eds.), Business and Poverty (Palgrave MacMillan, London).Google Scholar
  14. Blowfield, M.E. and C. Dolan: 2008, ‘Stewards of Virtue? The Ethical Dilemma of CSR in African Agriculture’, Development and Change 39(1), 1-23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Blowfield, M.E. and A. Murray: 2008, Corporate Responsibility: A Critical Introduction (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  16. Bond, P.: 2006, ‘Global Governance Campaigning and MDGs: From Top-Down to Bottom-Up Anti-poverty Work’, Third World Quarterly 27(2), 339-354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Brainard, L.: 2006, Transforming The Development Landscape: The Role of the Private Sector (Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C.).Google Scholar
  18. Dees, J. G.: 1998, ‘The Meaning of “Social Entrepreneurship”, Comments and Suggestions Contributed from the Social Entrepreneurship Funders’, Working Group, 6 pp.Google Scholar
  19. Doherty, B. and S. Tranchell: 2007, ‘Radical Mainstreaming’ of Fairtrade: The Case of the Day Chocolate Company’, Equal Opportunities International 26(7), 693-711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dolan, C.: 2008, ‘The Mists of Development: Fairtrade in Kenya Tea Fields’, Globalizations 5(2): 1-14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dolan, C. and J. Humphrey: 2004, ‘Changing Governance Patterns in the Trade in Fresh Vegetables Between Africa and the United Kingdom’, Environment and Planning 36(3), 491–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Easterly, W.R.: 2006, The White Man’s Burden: Why The West’s Efforts To Aid The Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  23. Ellis, K.: 2008, Assessing Business Development Impact: A Management Framework For Improved Economic and Socio-Economic Performance Reporting (Overseas Development Institute, London).Google Scholar
  24. Embassy of the Republic of Kenya, Beijing: 2008, ‘Overview of the Tea Industry’,
  25. Fairtrade Foundation: 2006, ‘Annual Report and Financial Statements’,
  26. Fairtrade Foundation: 2008a, ‘Fairtrade Sales Reach Half a Billion Pounds’,
  27. Fairtrade Foundation: 2008b, ‘Fairtrade Foundation Facts and Figures’,
  28. Ferguson, J.: 1994, The Anti-Politics Machine (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis).Google Scholar
  29. FINE: 2001, ‘Fair Trade Definition and Principles’,
  30. FLO: 2006, ‘FLO-CERT Producer Certification Fees: Small Farmers’,
  31. FLO: 2007a, ‘Generic Standards for Small Farmers’ Organisations’,
  32. FLO: 2007c, ‘Fairtrade Standards for Tea for Small Farmers’ Organizations’,
  33. FLO: 2007d, Annual Report 2006/7 – Shaping Global Partnerships (FLO, Bonn)Google Scholar
  34. FLO: 2009, ‘Generic Standards for Small Farmers’ Organisations’,
  35. FLO: nd, ‘About Fair Trade’,
  36. Goodman, M.: 2007, ‘There’s Not a Picture of Smiling Farmer on the Front … That Scares Consumers’: The Spectral Cultural Political Economies of Fair Trade in the UK’, Paper Presented to Conference: Democracy and Transparency in Certified and Ethical Commodity Networks, University of Kentucky, October 12–13.Google Scholar
  37. IFAT: 2006, Fair Trade in Europe 2005: Facts and Figures on Fair Trade in 25 European Countries (International Fair Trade Association).Google Scholar
  38. IFAT: 2007, ‘About IFAT’,
  39. Kariuki, S.: 2007. Kenya Tea Industry Performance Highlights (January – June 2007) (The Tea Board of Kenya, Nairobi).Google Scholar
  40. Karnani, A.: 2007, ‘The Mirage of Marketing to the Bottom of the Pyramid’, California Management Review 49(4), 90-111.Google Scholar
  41. Kazungu, J.: 2008, March 2, ‘Safmarine Refurbishes Tea Auction Centre’, Business Daily,
  42. Kinyili, J.: 2003, Diagnostic Study of the Tea Industry in Kenya (Export Promotion Council, Nairobi),
  43. Li, T.: 2007, The Will to Improve: Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics (Duke University Press, Durham).Google Scholar
  44. Linton, A.: 2008, ‘Ethical Trade Initiatives’, Globalizations 5(2), 227-229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lyon, S.: 2007, ‘Fair Trade Coffee and Human Rights in Guatemala’, Journal of Consumer Policy 30, 241–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lyon, S.: 2008, ‘We Want to Be Equal to Them: Fair Trade Coffee Certification and Gender Equity within Organizations’, Human Organization 68(3),258-268.Google Scholar
  47. Macdonald, K.: 2007, ‘Globalising Justice within Coffee Supply Chains? Fair Trade, Starbucks and the Transformation of Supply Chain Governance’, Third World Quarterly, 28(4), 793-812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Margolis, J., D. and J.P. Walsh: 2003, ‘Misery Loves Companies: Rethinking Social Initiatives By Business’, Administrative Science Quarterly 48(2), 268-305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Mburu, S.: 2008, May 5, ‘Kenya: Farmers Reap Benefits of Fair Trade Teas’, Business Daily,
  50. McMurtry, J. J.: 2008, ‘Ethical Value-Added: Fair Trade and the Case of Cafe Femenino’, Journal of Business Ethics, online version.Google Scholar
  51. Moyo, D.: 2009, Dead aid: why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa (Allen Lane, London)Google Scholar
  52. Mukherjee Reed, A. and D. Reed: 2009, ‘Partnerships for Development: Four Models of Business Involvement’, Journal of Business Ethics 90(1), 3–37Google Scholar
  53. Mutersbaugh, T.: 2002, ‘Ethical Trade and Certified Organic Coffee: Implications of Rules-Based Agricultural Product Certification for Mexican Producer Households and Villages’, Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems 12(1), 89-108.Google Scholar
  54. Neilson, J. and B. Pritchard: 2009, Value Chain Struggles: Institutions and Governance in the Plantation Districts of South India (Blackwell, London).Google Scholar
  55. Nelson, J.: 2007, Building Linkages for Competitive and Responsible Entrepreneurship (Harvard University John F Kennedy School of Government and UNIDO, Cambridge MA).Google Scholar
  56. Newell, P. and J. G. Frynas: 2007, ‘Beyond CSR? Business, Poverty and Social Justice: An Introduction’, Third World Quarterly 28(4), 669–681Google Scholar
  57. Nicholls, A. and C. Opal: 2005, Fair Trade: Market-Driven Ethical Consumption (SAGE, London).Google Scholar
  58. NRET: 1999, ‘Ethical Trade and Sustainable Rural Livelihoods’. In: D. Carney (ed.) Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: What Contribution can we Make? Department for International Development, London, pp. 107-129.Google Scholar
  59. Omosa, M., M. Kimani and R. Njiru.: 2006. The Social Impact of Codes of Practice in the Cut Flower Industry in Kenya (Chatham: Natural Resources Institute/University of Nairobi).Google Scholar
  60. Oxfam: 2002, ‘The Tea Market – A Background Study’,
  61. Peck, J. and A. Tickell: 2002, ‘Neoliberalizing Space’, Antipode 34(3), 380–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. PKF Consulting and International Research Network: 2005, Tea and Coffee Industry in Kenya in 2005 (Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA), Nairobi),
  63. Prahalad, C.K. and S.L. Hart: 2002, ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’, Strategy and Business 26, 2-14.Google Scholar
  64. Rajak, D.: 2006, ‘The Gift of CSR: Power and the Pursuit of Responsibility in the Mining Industry’, in W. Visser, M. McIntosh and C. Middleton (eds.), Corporate Citizenship in Africa: Lessons from the Past, Paths to the Future (Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield).Google Scholar
  65. Rajak, D.: 2007, In Good Company. DPhil Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Sussex, Falmer.Google Scholar
  66. Raynolds, L.T., D. Murray and P. Taylor: 2004, ‘Fair Trade: Building Producer Capacity via Global Networks’, Journal of International Development 16, 1109-1121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Raynolds, L.T., D. Murray and J Wilkinson: 2007, Fair Trade: The Challenges of Transforming Globalization (Routledge, NY).Google Scholar
  68. Reed, D.: 2008, ‘What Do Corporations Have to Do with Fair Trade? Positive and Normative Analysis from a Value Chain Perspective’, Journal of Business Ethics,
  69. Renard, M: 2003, ‘Fair Trade: Quality, Market and Conventions’, Journal of Rural Studies 19, 87–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Robinson, P.: 2009, Is Fair Trade Tea from Plantations an Oxymoron? Some Tea Estate Workers Think So (Small Farmers, Big Change),
  71. Ronchi, L.: 2002, Impact of Fair Trade on Producers and their Organisations: A Case Study with Coocafe in Costa Rica (Poverty Research Unit, University of Sussex, Falmer).Google Scholar
  72. Rose, N.: 1996, ‘The Death of the Social? Re-figuring the Territory of Government’, Economy and Society 25, 327–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Ruggie, J., M. Wright and A. Lehr: 2006, Business Recognition of Human Rights: Global Patterns, Regional and Sectoral Variations (United Nations Human Rights Commission, Geneva).Google Scholar
  74. Sachs, J.: 2005, The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time (Penguin Press, London)Google Scholar
  75. Salzmann, O., A. Ionescu-Somers and U. Steger: 2005, ‘The Business Case for Corporate Sustainability: Literature Review and Research Options’, European Management Journal, 23(1), 27–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Schmelzer, M.: 2007, Fair Trade – In or Against the Market? (Institut fur Soziale, Dreigliederung),
  77. Scholte, E.: 2003, ‘The Virtual Reality of Protestant Development Aid in the Netherlands’, in Quarles van Ufford, P. and A. Kumar Giri (eds.), A Moral Critique of Development. (Routledge, London), pp. 221-234.Google Scholar
  78. Sexsmith, K.: 2008, Power Relations in the Fair Trade Coffee Global Value Chain, MPhil Thesis, Department of International Development, Oxford University, Oxford.Google Scholar
  79. Sharp, J.: 2006, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility and Development: An Anthropological Perspective’, Development Southern Africa 23(2), 213-222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Shreck, A.: 2002, ‘Just Bananas? Fair Trade Banana Production in the Dominican Republic’, International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 10(2), 13–23.Google Scholar
  81. Sidwell, M.: 2008, Unfair Trade (Adams Smith Institute, London),
  82. Steger, U.: 2004, The Business of Sustainability: Building Industry Cases for Corporate Sustainability (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke).Google Scholar
  83. SustainAbility, IFC and Ethos Institute: 2002, Developing Value: The Business Case for Sustainability in Emerging Markets (SustainAbility, London).Google Scholar
  84. SustainAbility and UNEP: 2001, Business Case Buried Treasure: Uncovering the Business Case for Corporate Sustainability (SustainAbility/United Nations Environment Programme, London).Google Scholar
  85. Tallontire, A.: 2000, ‘Partnerships in Fair Trade: Reflections from a Case Study of Cafe´direct’, Development in Practice 10(2), 166–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Tallontire, A. with M. E. Blowfield and E. Rentsendorj: 2001, Ethical Consumers and Ethical Trade: A Review of Current Literature, Policy Series 12 (National Resource Institute, University of Greenwich, Chatham).Google Scholar
  87. Taylor, P., Murray, D., Raynolds, L.: 2005, ‘Keeping Trade Fair: Governance Challenges in the Fair Trade Coffee Initiative’, Sustainable Development 13, 199–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. The Economist: 2006, October 19, Macro Credit.Google Scholar
  89. Traidcraft: 2007, A Fair Cup: Towards Better Tea Buying (London, Traidcraft).Google Scholar
  90. Utting, P.: 2007, CSR and Equality (Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, London).Google Scholar
  91. van der Wal, S.: 2008, Sustainability Issues in the Tea Sector: A Comparative Analysis of Six Leading Producing Countries (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Amsterdam).Google Scholar
  92. Waddock, S.A. and S.B. Graves: 1997, ‘The Corporate Social Performance–Financial Performance Link’, Strategic Management Journal, 18(4), 303-319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. WBCSD: 2008, Measuring Impact beyond the Bottom Line (World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Geneva).Google Scholar
  94. Wempe, J.: 2005, ‘Ethical Entrepreneurship and Fair Trade’, Journal of Business Ethics 60(3), 211-220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. World Bank: 2005, Data Statistics (World Bank, Washington).
  96. Wilson, C.: 2006, Make Poverty Business: Increase Profits and Reduce Risks by Engaging with the Poor (Greenleaf, Sheffield).Google Scholar
  97. Zadek, S., P. Raynard and C. Oliveira: 2005, Responsible Competitiveness: Reshaping Global Markets through Responsible Business Practices (AccountAbility, London).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smith School of Enterprise and the EnvironmentUniversity of OxfordOxfordU.K.
  2. 2.Said Business SchoolUniversity of OxfordOxfordU.K.

Personalised recommendations