Journal of Business Ethics 92 (2):287 - 299 (2010)

Consumers' concerns for the environment have led to the creation of niche markets, quality certifications and labelling systems. Built by activists and NGOs, these systems were adopted by agribusiness. Such firms try to capture consumers and react to opinion campaigns, whilst appropriating the conservation (or 'fair') discourse. This leads to the rise of new forms of third-party certifications of food production based on private standards and, hence, to new forms of contract relations between producers and buyers. The nature of these relationships is not always evident in these new labels or in the discourse built to justify them. This is particularly so in the case of goods produced in the South to be traded and sold in the North, as the case of Starbucks illustrates. By the end of the 1990s, Starbucks, operating through an NGO called Conservation International (CI), arrived at the region of El Triunfo, in Chiapas, and contacted the producers' cooperatives that were trying to find a market for their product. CI promoted Starbucks standards to raise the coffee quality and won the control over the production system. Meanwhile, the producers forced to sell their coffee through the largest trade company (AMSA) against whom the cooperatives were created, lost the control over their own organization. When some cooperatives refused the deal, they suffered divisions but could survive thanks the Fair Trade (FT) network in Chiapas
Keywords CAFE Practices  coffee producer coop- eratives  conservation coffee  El Triunfo Reserve  fair trade  Starbucks
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-010-0584-0
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