The Impact of Fair Trade: A Literature Review with a Systematic Approach of the Existing Evidence

By Dafni Skalidou.

Published by Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 15, 2015 $US5.00

Sales of Fair Trade products have increased exponentially over the last decades. A growing body of literature reports on the benefits that Fair Trade delivers to the poorest producers across the world. Nevertheless, empirical evidence on the impact of Fair Trade is limited and sometimes contradictory. This study provides findings from a literature review with a systematic approach on the effectiveness of Fair Trade as a poverty reduction tool. The review focuses on the effects of Fair Trade on economic, social, and empowerment aspects of producers’ well-being. Exclusion criteria were applied to 1,218 papers and resulted in the inclusion of twelve studies in the synthesis of findings. A “thematic synthesis approach” suggests that Fair Trade significantly enhances organizational empowerment and professional self-esteem as well as education outcomes, while effects on gender empowerment are rather disappointing. Contradictory and nonsignificant effects prevail regarding economic outcomes and life satisfaction. The analysis does not reveal any systematic pattern influencing producers’ decision to join the Fair Trade scheme. However, doubts remain on the validity of the research designs of the included studies and their ability to effectively control for selection bias. The review concludes with recommendations for future research, highlighting the necessity for impact evaluation designs to recognise and adapt to the complexity of the Fair Trade context.

Keywords: Fair Trade, Ethical Markets, Certification, Well-being, Poverty Reduction, Impact Evaluation, Bias Assessment, Evidence

Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4, December 2015, pp.1-21. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 15, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 909.984KB)).

Dafni Skalidou

Postgraduate Researcher, School of International Development, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, UK