Fairtrade research opportunity

A Fairtrade academic research opportunity for students at the University of Derby


To offer students the opportunity to critically evaluate the different interconnected and nuanced aspects of the Fairtrade movement globally through research projects. The Fairtrade concept has been researched since the 1990s; however, with the growth of the Fairtrade movement since the start of the 21st century there has been a renewed focus on the complexities of Fairtrade.

The historical origins and development of the movement, drawing on a growing body of empirical data, as well as new concerns and developmental challenges all contribute to current arguments and perspectives in the field of Fairtrade studies.

The research project can be undertaken as part of the Independent Studies in a student’s third year or under the URSS (University Research Studentship Scheme) in the second year of studies. The findings will feed into the agenda of the University of Derby Fairtrade Committee; inform it’s campaigns and initiatives, and help target
it’s actions, to promote Fairtrade at the University.


  1. To understand the governance and politics of Fairtrade cooperatives and corporations
  2. To analyse Fairtrade impacts on women, small scale farmers and artisans
  3. To examine how Fairtrade fits within food networks and food security
  4. To evaluate corporate accountability and multi-stakeholder regulations
  5. To critically analyse Fairtrade and environmental sustainability


Students will be critically analysing historical inequalities between and within countries, indicating initiatives and movements in international trade to make it more just. The Fairtrade movement is about identifying socially conscious businesses that challenge global inequalities, linking producers in the Global South with consumers in Global North and also across the world. It aims to transform international production and distribution by changing them from vehicles of exploitation to avenues of empowerment.

Multidisciplinary research on Fairtrade and the interconnected and complex issues has been undertaken with the fields of sociology, political science, geography, economics and anthropology – as well as business, marketing, policy, international development and other related fields.

Research methods

Academic research can use a mixed methods approach, using either or both qualitative and quantitative data; for example:

  1. Primary data collection – online surveys, questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions
  2. Secondary data collection – collating secondary information, reviews and analysis of large-scale data

The student undertaking these research projects will benefit by developing skills in statistical or qualitative data analysis (using SPSS or Nvivo or thematic analysis) and the use of Excel software to collate, analyse and present data. Data analysis using primary and/or secondary data is a key employability skill across many sectors. The student will also build research skills that will be essential for L5 and L6 students.

Possible research projects (but not limited to)

Further ideas for Fairtrade Research topics can be found in Raynolds, L, T., and Bennett, E.A., (2015) (Edited) Handbook of research on fair trade, Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK.


This research opportunity is open to second and third-year students. For further information, contact Rosemary Horry: r.e.horry@derby.ac.uk

Audit of academic provision

This year an audit was conducted of where Fairtrade, ethical consumption and trade justice was covered in modules available at the University of Derby and modules within the College of Science and the College of Business, Law and Social Science were found to contain such materials. There is ongoing work within the Associate Provost for Learning and Teaching, working on a new Learning and Teaching framework for the University, which is looking to increase the provision of Education for Sustainable Development throughout the curriculum. For more information on the audit contact r.e.horry@derby.ac.uk