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Mission accomplished? Balancing market growth and moral legitimation in the fair trade moral market

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Huybrechts, B 
Doherty, B 


How can moral market growth be pursued while sustaining the market’s moral legitimation? We address this question in a study of how Fairtrade International (FTI), the ‘market mediator’ responsible for regulating the fair trade moral market through certification standards, gradually adapted those standards to facilitate market participation by multinational corporations (MNCs). We find that despite the substantial changes made to its founding moral mission, FTI managed to sustain the moral legitimation of the moral market through retaining the support of pioneer organizations. We explain this observation by theorizing three types of ‘mission work’ that market mediators can employ to balance moral market growth and moral legitimation. First, mission editing is a process in which a founding mission is both trimmed and flexed to be more compatible with moral market growth. Second, mission moralizing employs different types of moral claims to legitimize mission editing and frame moral market growth as necessary for mission accomplishment. Third, mission stabilizing describes the work to convince pioneer organizations of mission continuity over time and build a feeling of common fate around the edited mission. By illuminating mission work as a moral legitimation capability deployed by moral market mediators, our findings contribute to the literatures on moral markets, moral legitimation, and mission work.



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Journal of Management Studies

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