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Journal of Business Ethics

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International trade, Unfair competition, Protectionism, Anti-globalization movement -- United States, Social justice -- Economic aspects -- United States


This article examines the development of and contestation over the standards for certified fair trade, with particular attention to the U.S. context. It charts fair trade’s rapid growth in the United States since the 1999 advent of formal certification, explores the controversies generated by the strategy of market mainstreaming in the sector, and focuses on five key issues that have generated particularly heated contention within the U.S. fair trade movement. It offers a theoretical framework based in the literatures on agrifood systems, social movements, and public-choice economics, for understanding the corporate response to alternative markets such as fair trade. The article suggests a typology of responses by social movement actors to this increased corporate participation, and assesses the relevance of the U.S. case for the future prospects of fair trade, both in other national contexts and as an international movement.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Business Ethics. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Business Ethics volume 92, pages 267–285.



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