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The impact of Fairtrade: a review of research evidence 2009–2015

Research report

Research report

The Fairtrade movement is part of a wider civil society movement that supports fair and ethical trade. Fairtrade is a certification scheme which also engages in civil society campaigning, advocacy work for trade justice, consumer awareness raising, and agricultural extension and capacitybuilding. Fairtrade is half-owned by representatives of producer organisations. It applies standards to smallholder producers working together in cooperatives or other organisations with democratic structures (known as small producer organisations), and to organisations hiring workers and paying decent wages, guaranteeing the right to join trade unions, ensuring health and safety standards and providing adequate housing where relevant (referred to in the remainder of the paper as ‘hired labour organisations’). Many Fairtrade certified products also have a guaranteed minimum price which must be paid to producers. 


The overall research question posed for the study is: What is the impact of Fairtrade on certified smallholder producer groups and workers in certified hired labour organisations in terms of fostering sustainable livelihoods and empowerment? This review paper synthesises results from 45 recently published studies to assess the impacts of Fairtrade certification for smallholder producer groups and workers in hired labour organisations.

Emily Darko, Alainna Lynch and William Smith