Fair trade consumption and the limits to solidarity

Sarah Lyon, Sara Ailshire, Alexadra Sehon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


On the basis of an online survey (n=185) of university student consumers and ethnographic "shopalongs" with 10 participants, this article demonstrates that while students are often inspired by the things they learn about Fair Trade and related labels in their university classrooms or from friends, they remain uncertain about what Fair Trade is precisely trying to accomplish. With the goal of shedding light on the lived experience of consumption and the contradictions that shape students' shopping practices, we identify three primary factors limiting students' ability or willingness to consume in solidarity with Fair Trade producers: (1) the students' reluctance or inability to devote significant amounts of time to shopping and consumption related research, (2) the influence of their ingrained consumption habits, including those learned from their parents, and (3) the perceived lack of Fair Trade products in local retail outlets. We maintain that in terms of encouraging Fair Trade consumption, the last factor is the most significant and most readily addressed. Consequently, in the paper's conclusion, we make several suggestions for increasing Fair Trade's visibility on campus and its surroundings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-152
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Organization
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2014


  • Fair Trade
  • consumption
  • practices
  • students
  • universities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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