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Fair trade and European public procurement: legal principles and governance dynamics

Fisher, E. and Corbolan, S. (2013) Fair trade and European public procurement: legal principles and governance dynamics. Social Enterprise Journal, 9 (1). pp. 11-27. ISSN 1750-8614

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1108/17508611311329985


Purpose The article examines principles of Fair Trade in public procurement in Europe, focusing on legal dimensions related to the European Public Procurement Directives. Design/methodology/approach The article situates public procurement of Fair Trade products in relation to the rise of non-state regulatory initiatives, highlighting how they have entered into new governance dynamics in the public sector and play a part in changing practices in sustainable procurement. A review of legal position on Fair Trade in procurement law is informed by academic research and campaigning experience from the Fair Trade Advocacy Office. Findings Key findings are that the introduction of Fair Trade products into European public procurement has been marked by legal ambiguity, having developed outside comprehensive policy or legal guidelines. Following a 2012 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, it is suggested that the legal position for Fair Trade in procurement has become clearer, and that forthcoming change to the Public Procurement Directives may facilitate the uptake of fair trade products by public authorities. However potential for future expansion of the public sector ‘market’ for Fair Trade is approached with caution: purchasing Fair Trade products as a marker of sustainability, which started to be embedded within procurement practice in the 2000s, is challenged by current European public austerity measures. Research limitations/implications Suggestions for future research include the need for systematic cross-institutional and multi-country comparison of the legal and governance dimensions of procurement practice with regard to Fair Trade. Practical implications A clarification of current state-of-play with regard to legal aspects of fair trade in public procurement of utility for policy and advocacy discussion. Originality/value The article provides needed elaboration on an under researched topic area of value to academia and policy makers.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of International Development
ID Code:30538
Uncontrolled Keywords:Fair Trade; public procurement; Europe; private standards

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