Powers of Ethical Consumption: A Critique of FLO, Fair Trade USA, and Starbucks

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Powers of Ethical Consumption: A Critique of FLO, Fair Trade USA, and Starbucks

When it comes to fair trade, we perceive to be the truth and the actual truth can differ to a frightening degree. On the one hand we know that there are multiple organizations using fair trade labels to promote social good. On the other hand, the fair trade industry is large and complex with little-to-no oversight. As a result, we are left with critical questions surrounding the facts behind fair trade: Who sets the fair trade standards? To whom are these organizations accountable? Has fair trade become the new greenwashing, a simple marketing ploy? And many more. This collection blog posts will demonstrate that the fair trade industry isn't as simple of a solution as it sounds. In fact, it's a very complex industry with several players approaching it in very different ways.

These posts focus on the two main players, Fair Trade USA and the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO), that have led the way in terms of standard creation and marketing. This series will provide an in depth look at the controversial decision Fair Trade USA made in December 2011 to leave the internationally accepted standards of FLO and to create their own, interviews with the heads of both organizations, and how the actions of these organizations are affecting you the reader.

Content from this campaign

Questions and Answers with Caroline Hickson, Director of Brand and Communications, at Fairtrade International (FLO)
After my provocative interview with Paul Rice from Fair Trade USA, I promised you'd hear from the "other side" of the movement too, so here you have it!  Caroline Hickson, Director of Brand and Communications, at Fairtrade International (FLO) sheds light on their model, pilot projects and plans for innovation. (Please note: the fair...
Aug 16, 2012 2:45 PM ET
FLO, Fair Trade USA, and Starbucks: A Critique - Part 5
Note from the author: I hope you've enjoyed this series thus far. Many thanks to those of you who have posted very engaging comments and questions. It's so great to see the energy around this movement. I love being part of it and it seems that millions of others do too. And, I think the debate and disagreement is healthy. It's a good sign...
May 3, 2012 3:25 PM ET
Question and Answer with Paul Rice, President and CEO of Fair Trade USA: Part 2
"Don't we want to democratize fair trade? Don't we want fair trade to be more than a white, middle-class movement? Don't we want consumers, no matter where they shop, to have access to great products that also do right in the world?" If you missed the first part of my interview with Paul Rice, do not fret. ...
May 3, 2012 1:55 PM ET
FLO, Fair Trade USA, and Starbucks: A Critique - Part 4
(Please note: This posting critiques the fair trade industry at the close of 2011.  As of January 2012, Fair Trade USA revised their standards and the current standards will be discussed in a future posting.) Part 4 of a multi-series blog. ...
May 2, 2012 3:15 PM ET
FLO, Fair Trade USA, and Starbucks: A Critique (Part 6)
“When the dragons started coming in, the label changed. The farmers are also frustrated with the different types of standards. When Transfair [Fair Trade USA] announced its departure from FLO, farmers denounced this move,” Dean Cycon, Owner of Deans Beans. Both a piece of contention and applause is the support and impact both FLO and Fair Trade USA...
May 1, 2012 5:00 PM ET

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