Why coffee and not honey – untangling the limits and opportunities for certifying the ‘moral quality’ of products, by Jan-Christoph Janssen

PhD thesis defended the 29th may 2017, under the supervision of Sigfrid Quack and Christine Trampusch, Universität zu Köln

Why did Fair Trade take momentum in some industries within certain national contexts and not in others? In this thesis, I apply the arguments of H. C. White, Tilly, Fligstein and McAdam in order to understand the success and failure of applying similar standards to various product markets through one certificate. Four national settings and seven product categories are compared – coffee, cocoa, bananas, sugar, rice, wine, and honey in Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the USA are chosen and analyzed between the years 2002 and 2011. The effects of the discourse and structural preconditions (i.e. oligopolies) are analyzed in concert through the application of fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA). I investigate the role of firms and social movements in the process of change. Two equifinal paths to change in markets are theorized and analyzed. One of those paths is driven by institutional entrepreneurship, the other by social movements. The findings of the fsQCA back the perspective of social movements and institutional entrepreneurship as substitutive drivers of change in markets and the two paths. Less successful attempts to penetrate markets though certification lack the discourse and the focus of single firms or entrepreneurs within the discourse. In addition, the evidence pinpoints to changing processes over time and the need to move beyond static analyses. This study contributes to the current state of the art by offering a comparative perspective on the effect of social movements and institutional entrepreneurship on mature markets. In this vein, fsQCA is applied deductively and the concepts and paths are disentangled in a compelling manner. INUS conditions are theorized as constitutive parts of paths to change. Finally, this study compares the opportunities and fallacies of penetrating markets through certification in general – and Fair Trade certification in particular.

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