Fairtrade International certification is the primary social certification in the agro-food sector intended to promote the well-being and empowerment of farmers and workers in the Global South. Although Fairtrade's farmer program is well studied, far less is known about its labor certification. Helping fill this gap, this article provides a systematic account of Fairtrade's labor certification system and standards and compares it to four other voluntary programs addressing labor conditions in global agro-export sectors. The study explains how Fairtrade International institutionalizes its equity and empowerment goals in its labor certification system and its recently revised labor standards. Drawing on critiques of compliance-based labor standards programs and proposals regarding the central features of a ‘beyond compliance’ approach, the inquiry focuses on Fairtrade's efforts to promote inclusive governance, participatory oversight, and enabling rights. I argue that Fairtrade is making important, but incomplete, advances in each domain, pursuing a ‘worker-enabling compliance’ model based on new audit report sharing, living wage, and unionization requirements and its established Premium Program. While Fairtrade pursues more robust ‘beyond compliance’ advances than competing programs, the study finds that, like other voluntary initiatives, Fairtrade faces critical challenges in implementing its standards and realizing its empowerment goals.
Fairtrade Certification, Labor Standards, and Labor Rights: Comparative Innovations and Persistent Challenges
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Laura T. Raynolds; Fairtrade Certification, Labor Standards, and Labor Rights: Comparative Innovations and Persistent Challenges. Sociology of Development 1 June 2018; 4 (2): 191–216. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2018.4.2.191
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