Fair Trade as Civic Innovation? The case of tea certification in India

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Workers on tea estates at the beginning of the tea value chain have historically been and continue to represent some the most marginalised agricultural workers. The tea sector in India is the country’s largest formal sector in terms of employment. Yet, wages of tea workers are the lowest among the formal labour force and their living conditions are appalling (Bhowmik 2015: 29). In this paper, I discuss whether fair trade certification, i.e. the certification of products whose production adheres to a set of social, environmental and governance standards as fair trade-compliant, can contribute to a transformation of the tea chain, able to support moves towards more decent work. This discussion is based on a review of existing studies of the impact of fair trade on tea cultivation in India. With Biekart et al. (2016), I refer to such progressive societal change driven by civic actors as forms of ‘civic innovation’. Given tea workers’ marginalisation, the analysis of fair trade tea cultivation offers a litmus test of the potential of fair trade certification to promote inclusive development in line with the 8th Sustainable Development Goal to “[p]romote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all” (UN 2015).
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationThiruvananthapuram, India
Number of pages34
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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SeriesNRPPD Discussion Papers

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