This paper is meant to provide a first insight into an apparently new range of activities of the co-operative movement: fair-trade activities. Some may claim that fair-trade or at least ethical trade is an essential characteristic of the co-operative movement from day one. Still, we could argue that fair-trade as a concept is very much associated with attaining development achievements through alternative North-South trade patterns.
In the literature and on the internet, a lot of information is available on both the co-operative sector and the fair-trade sector. Little though is known about the common grounds, the conceptual and historical relations between both domains and about the actual and potential synergy, the mutual benefits for co-operatives and fair-trade when conceived and applied together.
In a first attempt to deal with these matters, we propose the following lead-ques¬tions:
- Definition and categorisation. How do we define fair-trade and related concepts? What is the historical background of the fair-trade movement? What similari-ties and common grounds do the co-operative and fair-trade sector share? What are differences and divergences between these two sectors?
- Practice. What is the involvement of co-operatives in fair-trade initiatives in practice? What are fair-trade strategies of co-operatives and to which extent we can observe successes and problems?
- Synergy. Why should fair-trade make use of co-operatives in the various stages of its operations (production, expedition and importing, retailing)? Do co-operatives constitute an advantage for fair-trade organisations? And vice-versa: should co-operatives jump on the fair-trade bandwagon for the sake of their own distinction?
- Policy. How can institutional bridges between co-operatives and fair-trade agents be created?