Skip to main content

Does Fair Trade Compete with Carbon Footprint and Organic Attributes in the Eyes of Consumers? Results from a Pilot Study in Scotland, The Netherlands and France


Several studies on ethical and social food attributes have shown that consumers, especially in developed countries, are willing to pay a price premium for fair trade foods products. However, there is a scant literature on how consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay (WTP) for fair trade products are affected by the presence of other ethical food attributes. To fill this gap, a choice experiment was conducted in Scotland, the Netherlands and France to assess consumers’ preferences and WTP for ethical attributes, i.e., fairtrade, organic, and lower carbon footprint, of bananas and to find out whether this ethical food attributes are competing in real markets. The results showed that in the three countries consumers are willing to pay a price premium for the three ethical food attributes. The results showed that in the current market situation these ethical foods are not generally competing against each other. Nonetheless, they are likely to become competing for consumer’s money at least when: (1) the price of organic foods is decreased significantly, (2) the price for fairtrade food products is set higher than consumers’ WTP, and (3) bananas labeled as having lower carbon footprint are made available in retail stores and sold at a price lower than consumers’ WTP.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1


  1. This could happen due to the increasing interest of consumers in developed countries to contribute to the global effort to reduce global warming by, among others, purchasing sustainable food products (Wiser 2007; Whitehead and Cherry 2007; Jeanty et al. 2007; Bollino 2009; Onozaka and McFadden 2011).

  2. We must mention that the size of our sample is not representative of the whole population of the three countries. However, the main objective of this study is to gain insight on consumers’ preferences and willingness to pay for different ethical food attributes in the three countries and not to produce country-wide estimates.

  3. These values were calculated assuming that the origin of bananas is Canary Islands—Spain (697 g of CO2), from Ghana (1.143 kg of CO2), Ecuador (1.880 kg of CO2), and Indonesia (2.619 kg of CO2). Please notice that the origin of the products was not revealed to participants. This is important to obtain a clean estimation of participants’ WTP for carbon footprint, otherwise, their WTP for carbon footprint will be confounded with their WTP for the origin of bananas.

  4. The estimated individual WTPs in the Scottish data were obtained in pound sterling. For a clean comparison across countries, the individual WTP were multiplied by 1.28 to convert them from pound sterling to Euro.

  5. We tested the normality of the distribution of respondents’ WTP for each ethical attribute in each country. All the distributions were found to be non-normal. As a result a non-parametric test (Wilcoxon rank-sum test) was used to test whether respondents’ WTP for the different ethical attributes are statistically different from each other.

  6. We are making this assumption because bananas certified as having lower carbon footprint are not currently sold in any of the three countries’ grocery stores.


  • Andorfer, V. A., & Liebe, U. (2012). Research on fair trade consumption—A review. Journal of Business Ethics, 106(4), 415–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Annunziata, A., & Scarpato, D. (2014). Factors affecting consumer attitudes towards food products with sustainable attributes. Agricultural Economics (Zemědělská Ekonomika), 60(8), 353–363.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arnot, C., Boxall, P. C., & Cash, S. B. (2006). Do ethical consumers care about price? A revealed preference analysis of fair trade coffee purchases. Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d’agroeconomie, 54(4), 555–565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Basu, A. K., & Hicks, R. L. (2008). Label performance and the willingness to pay for Fair Trade coffee. A cross-national perspective. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 32, 470–478.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bollino, C. A. (2009). The willingness to pay for renewable energy sources: the case of Italy with socio-demographic determinants. The Energy Journal, 30(2), 81–96.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carlsson, F., Garcıa, J. H., & Lofgren, A. (2010). Conformity and the demand for environmental goods. Environmental Resource Economics, 47, 407–421.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Connolly, J., & Shaw, D. (2006). Identifying fair trade in consump tion choice. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 14, 353–368.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cranfield, J., Henson, S., Northey, J., & Masakure, O. (2010). An assessment of consumer preference for Fair Trade coffee in Toronto and Vancouver. Agribusiness, 26(2), 307–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cummings, R. G., & Taylor, L. O. (1999). Unbiased value estimates for environmental goods. A cheap talk design for the contingent valuation method. American Economic Review, 89(3), 649–666.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Pelsmacker, P., Driesen, L., & Rayp, G. (2005). Do consumers care about ethics? Willingness to pay for fair-trade coffee. Journal of consumer affairs, 39(2), 363–385.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Didier, T., & Lucie, S. (2008). Measuring consumer’s willingness to pay for organic and Fair Trade products. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 32, 479–490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • European Commission—Directorate-General for Agriculture (DGVI). (1997). The Common Agricultural Policy. Attitudes of EU Consumers to Fair Trade Bananas. Resource document. European Commission.

  • Fair trade International. (2013). Unlocking the power. Annual report 2012–2013. Resource document. Fair trade International.

  • Galarraga, I., & Markandya, A. (2004). Economic techniques to estimate the demand for sustainable products. A case study for Fair Trade and organic coffee in the United Kingdom. Economia Agraria y Recursos Naturales, 4, 109–134.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Globescan, (2011). Shopping Choices Can Make a Positive Difference to Farmers and Workers in Developing Countries. Global Poll. Resource document. Globescan. http.//

  • Hejkrlik, J., Mazancová, J. A., & Forejtova, K. (2013). How effective is Fair Trade as a tool for the stabilization of agricultural commodity markets? Case of coffee in the Czech Republic. Agricultural Economics (Zemědělská Ekonomika), 59(1), 8–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hensher, D. A., Rose, J. M., & Greene, W. H. (2005). Applied choice analysis. A primer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Jeanty, P. W., Haab, T., & Hitzhusen, F. (2007). Willingness to pay for biodiesel in diesel engines: a stochastic double bounded contingent valuation survey. In American agricultural economics association annual meeting, Portland, Oregon, USA.

  • Loureiro, M. L., & Lotade, J. (2005). Do fair trade and eco–labels in coffee wake up the consumer conscience? Ecological Economics, 53(1), 129–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mahé, T. (2010). Are stated preferences confirmed by purchasing behaviours? The case of fair trade-certified Bananas in Switzerland. Journal of Business Ethics, 92(2), 301–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McFadden, D. (1973). Conditional logit analysis of qualitative choice behavior. Resource document. University of California at Berkeley.

  • McFadden, D., & Train, K. (2000). Mixed MNL models for discrete response. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 15, 447–470.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meijer, E., & Rouwendal, J. (2006). Measuring welfare effects in models with random coefficients. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 21(2), 227–244.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newholm, T., & Shaw, D. (2007). Studying the ethical consumer. A review of research. Journal of Consumer Behavior, 6, 253–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nicholls, A., & Opal, C. (2005). Fair trade. Market-driven ethical consumption: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Onozaka, Y., & Mcfadden, D. T. (2011). Does local labeling complement or compete with other sustainable labels? A conjoint analysis of direct and joint values for fresh produce claim. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 93(3), 693–706.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rousu, M.C., Corrigan, & J.R. (2008). Estimating the welfare loss to consumers when food labels do not adequately inform. An application to fair trade certification. Journal of Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization. 6(1), article 3.

  • Street, D. J., & Burgess, L. (2007). The construction of optimal stated choice experiments. Theory and methods. New Jersey: Wiley.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Tallontire, A., Rentsendorj, E., Blowfield, M. (2001). Ethical consumers and ethical trade. A review of current literature. Chatham. Resource document. Natural Resource Institute Policyn University of Greenwich.

  • Train, K., Weeks M. (2004). Discrete choice models in preference space and willingness-to-pay space. Resource document. University of Cambridge.

  • Trudel, R., & Cotte, J. (2009). Does it pay to be good? MIT Sloane Management Review., 50, 61–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whitehead, J. C., & Cherry, T. L. (2007). Willingness to pay for a green energy program: a comparison of ex-ante and ex-post hypothetical bias mitigation approaches. Resource Energy Economics, 29, 247–261.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wiser, R. H. (2007). Using contingent valuation to explore willingness to pay for renewable energy: a comparison of collective and voluntary payment vehicles. Ecological Economics, 62(3–4), 419–432

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Faical Akaichi.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Akaichi, F., de Grauw, S., Darmon, P. et al. Does Fair Trade Compete with Carbon Footprint and Organic Attributes in the Eyes of Consumers? Results from a Pilot Study in Scotland, The Netherlands and France. J Agric Environ Ethics 29, 969–984 (2016).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: