Faculté des sciences économiques et sociales

Success Factors of the Fair Trade Chains: A Managerial Perspective

Bezençon, Valéry ; Blili, Sam (Dir.)

Thèse de doctorat : Université de Neuchâtel, 2008 ; 2017.

Background Ethical consumption and business practices aiming at managing the social and environmental responsibility of firms are on the rise for several years. These phenomena raise several questions, since the economic agents involved, consumers and firms, are commonly considered as governed respectively by rationality and profit maximisation. Does this mark the emergence of a... Plus

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    Summary
    Background

    Ethical consumption and business practices aiming at managing the social and environmental responsibility of firms are on the rise for several years. These phenomena raise several questions, since the economic agents involved, consumers and firms, are commonly considered as governed respectively by rationality and profit maximisation. Does this mark the emergence of a new social rationality? Or do these observations simply represent new means of reaching materialistic objectives? Is this tendency a flash in the pan or is it a movement that will eventually reform our understanding of business theory and trade? In this research, these background reflections are apprehended through the analysis of Fair Trade, from a managerial perspective. Fair Trade is a field which is guided by ideology, political activism and discursive approaches and has only recently been researched scientifically. There is a need for managerial research in order to foster good business practices and professionalism among the actors.

    Objectives, content and structure

    The main objective of the research is to draw broad success factors of Fair Trade, at different levels of analysis. The thesis is constituted of four individual studies (Chapter 2 to 5), having their own research questions, units of analysis and methodology, but related by this common underlying objective. Chapter 1 introduces the field and the approach, defines Fair Trade and states the research problem, as well as the epistemological approach. Chapter 2 dissects the two types of distribution channels existing in Fair Trade, namely the alternative channels and mainstream channels. It is an exploratory research, which introduces the core of the thesis composed of Chapter 3, 4 and 5. Chapter 3 aims to develop an initial typology of business strategies with regard to Fair Trade product distribution. The organisation of the Fair Trade distribution knowledge is a first step towards the optimisation of the related processes. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on Fair Trade consumers. An instrument to analyse and predict consumer behaviour is developed in Chapter 4 for the specific case of Fair Trade consumption. In Chapter 5, consumer segments are hypothesised and their behaviour is analysed with the help of the instrument previously developed. The aim of these two chapters is to have a precise understanding of Fair Trade consumers in order to know how to address the different market segments.

    Contribution, Findings and Implications

    The two main theoretical contributions to current researches related to Fair Trade consist first in the preliminary typology of strategies explaining why companies distribute Fair Trade products, how they organise this distribution and how they engage with the Fair Trade principles. Then, the involvement model developed refines the common generic instruments which are insufficient to fully apprehend the specificities of ethical consumers. Findings show that firms have various motivations pertaining to the distribution of Fair Trade products, ranging from alibi to altruism. Consumer motivations are also heterogeneous and several criteria (age, education and distribution channel) proved to be efficient in segmenting the market according to consumer attitudes and behaviour. The research leads to three categories of managerial implications. First, it presents the key factors in organising the distribution of Fair Trade products. It also analyses several strategies that can be implemented by companies in order to benefit from Fair Trade products and make the Fair Trade movement benefit from this distribution. Second, it explains marketing professionals how to structure Fair Trade communication efficiently according to the segments identified. Finally, the emphasis is placed on how to improve Fair Trade product competitiveness, which is useful to both distributors and the Fair Trade movement.