Hall, Jacqueline Anne (2014) Securing the future: competitive but "fair" A critical exploration of the tangible and intangible push-pull factors for fair trade SME success. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

There is no moral pedestal for being a fair trade SME, when it comes to building value or competitiveness. The original concept of fair trade may not have changed, but today it has evolved beyond simply ‘black and white/in or out’. Indeed, the UK SME, just as their larger competitors, may not be Fairtrade© exclusive, whether that be in niche or mainstream markets. Furthermore, to trade using fair trade credentials alone will be insufficient, when their larger rivals can achieve economies of scale and through availability and convenience, target the ‘feel good’ consumer. Whilst Fairtrade© brings the poor farmer and shopper together and arguably ticks the box for large retailers, it is less clear ‘what is in it’ for the UK fair trade SME. The purpose of this thesis is to critically explore the tangible and intangible push-pull factors that enable them to grow and build resilience within a dynamic, but highly competitive ‘virtuous’ market. It will consider how SMEs balance their human, values based decisions with the pressure to remain viable and whether in reality, they simply make pragmatic mental trade-offs to secure their future. The research is exploratory, inductive and qualitative from the epistemological and ontological position of interpretivism and social constructivism; drawing upon grounded theory to support data coding and analysis. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 13 SMEs in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and London between December 2012 and June 2013. A coding framework was designed to classify those significant and interconnected factors and a typology of fair trade SMEs that reflects that one size ‘does not fit all’, within this growing and strategic market. Furthermore, through a values based orientation which extends across the supply chain, it will also show how ‘responsible business’ is a reality, through the creation of ‘shared value’.

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