Although support for the fair trade movement was mainly from minority groups who opposed the system, the integration of fair trade within the larger sphere of sustainable development increases its potential audience.
(…) With the wave of sustainable development, fair trade products are being proposed to traditional distribution outlets.
Distributors and industry are more receptive to an approach which aims to involve their economic activity, which would influence their business practice without bringing their overall aims into question, as opposed to a rather aggressive approach which consistently denounces the fundamental principles of the liberal system in which they play a central role. Fair trade is no longer considered as an opposition movement to economic development; rather it can be a strategic development tool for brands and retail names.
The creation of the Max Havelaar label in 1988 reflects this approach. It allows industry and traditional distributors to incorporate fair trade products which have met universally recognized and controlled standards. Once fair trade products are sold in typical outlets (strip malls, supermarkets, small shops and organic shops), the volume of sales and awareness of the concept take off.
(…) The role of those involved in mass distribution is still primarily to maximize the volume of sales and increase the visibility of fair trade.
Well established retail outlets, especially strip malls and supermarkets where consumers do most of their shopping (more than 80% of everyday purchases in France are made in such places), are still the best opening for new initiatives, as was the case for organic products. The most effective way of increasing sales and boosting the market will be developing specific fair trade brands, either national or distributor brands, which focus on the product’s quality. It is hoped that this lead to greater balance between retail offer of traditional products and those which respect the principles of sustainable development.
Le commerce équitable (extracts)
Published by Ed. Eyrolles (2004)