Fair Trade Buyers, by the Numbers

Shireen Musa
Dr. Shireen Musa, assistant professor of International Trade and Marketing.

How are buyers of fair trade fashion different from other consumers? A new study co-authored by Shireen Musa, assistant professor of International Trade and Marketing, attempts to answer that question.

The paper, published in the September issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Fair Trade, is an empirical study on the attributes of fair trade consumers. In it, Musa and her co-author surveyed patrons of a fair trade organization, sustainable shoppers, and college students to develop two numerical scales on which these consumers can be evaluated.

The first scale measures compassion for oneself, others and the environment—the level to which a consumer felt caring, patient and respectful toward themselves and others, and engaged in communal well-being. The second measures desire for sustainability awareness, or the extent to which a person is educated about the social and environmental issues that result from the apparel industry’s supply chains and production methods.

The study comes at a critical time for the $1.8 trillion global fashion industry as consumers reckon with its status as a major polluter, the authors write. The scales they develop could be used by companies to better understand the attitudes and motivations of consumers who buy fair trade products, which in turn can help firms change how they operate or how they market their goods to increase fair trade product sales.

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