Ethical decision making in fair trade companies

Iain A. Davies, Andrew Crane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Citations (SciVal)


This paper reports on a study of ethical decision-making in a fair trade company. This can be seen to be a crucial arena for investigation since fair trade firms not only have a specific ethical mission in terms of helping growers out of poverty, but they tend to be perceived as (and are often marketed on the basis of) having an "ethical" image. Eschewing a straightforward test of extant ethical decision models, we adopt Thompson''s proposal for a more contextualist understanding rooted in ethnographic data. Our findings suggest that the fair trade mission of the firm is experienced as an over-riding ethical claim, which is often invoked to justify potentially ethically questionable decisions. Moreover, decision precedents emerge which can mean that the decision process is bypassed or hurried through. Finally we provide evidence that the significance of these precedents, and indeed, even moral intensity itself, could be actively shaped and constructed by organization members to support different, even shifting, conceptions of what is a morally acceptable decision for a fair trade company to make.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-92
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1/2
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Sustainability
  • codes of conduct
  • ethical decision-making
  • ethical mission
  • fair trade
  • human rights
  • supply chains


Dive into the research topics of 'Ethical decision making in fair trade companies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this