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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
Article

Abstract

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.

Keywords

corporate social responsibility Fairtrade international development poverty alleviation 

Abbreviations

ATO

alternative trade organization

DFID

British Department for International Development

ETP

Ethical Tea Partnership

FLO

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International

FOB

free on board

IFAT

International Federation for Alternative Trade

IFOAM

International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements

ILO

International Labour Organization

KTDA

Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd

NGO

non-government organization

RA

Rainforest Alliance

SAI

Social Accountability International

SPC

Social Premium Committee

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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.

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