Fairtrade Facts and Fancies: What Kenyan Fairtrade Tea Tells us About Business’ Role as Development Agent
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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.
Keywordscorporate 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
Social Accountability International
Social Premium Committee
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