October is Fair Trade Month—a time to reflect on how we, as consumers, can make a difference in the lives of workers around the world. Let’s explore:
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade encourages sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth. Products that carry the Fair Trade Certified seal are made in accordance with high standards, promoting safe working conditions, the elimination of harmful chemicals, and sustainable livelihoods for businesses and communities.
Who certifies products as Fair Trade?
There are several certifying organizations (listed under Resources, below). Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. Paul Rice started Fair Trade USA in 1997 to create a worldwide certification standard for large companies who sold commodity goods like cocoa, bananas and tea. Some early participants were Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Numi Tea and Whole Foods Market. Fair Trade USA began to educate corporations about the importance of selling more ethical products under Fair Trade terms, and increase awareness among consumers about choosing Fair Trade products.
Nest is a Fair Trade certifying organization that sets standards for the millions of artisans across the globe who work out of their homes. Their goal is to increase global workforce inclusivity, improve women’s wellbeing beyond factories and preserve important cultural traditions around the world. Their efforts improve conditions for the more than 300 million homeworkers globally, most of whom are women.
What is the process?
The Fair Trade USA certification process is complex and rigorous, generally taking anywhere between 6-9 months. Fair Trade USA assesses transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities. This audit process is repeated annually, and in-country support ensures ongoing compliance.
Does buying Fair Trade products help reduce trafficking?
Fair Trade does not necessarily create better working conditions for people caught up in forced labor, since those conditions do not meet Fair Trade standards. However, as more people begin to buy Fair Trade, the demand for ethically sourced products increases. As demand rises, more companies will begin to switch to Fair Trade certification and create better working conditions in order to meet the demand. As a result, more stores will start to supply those products. Fair Trade certification guarantees that no child or forced labor was used in the production of goods. People who are impoverished are especially vulnerable to exploitation by traffickers. Fair Trade workers are paid a living wage so that their children don’t have to work to support their family and can attend school instead. Profits from Fair Trade ventures are reinvested into the community with Fair Trade Funds that address social, economic, and environmental challenges in each community. Through a democratic system, each Fair Trade community determines how their funds will be used. Funds can be reinvested into their business, directed to empowering women, supporting education, protecting the environment, fighting poverty and providing health care.
Is Fair Trade important during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Raising standards for essential workers such as farmers and garment workers means they can be more resilient in these trying times. When you purchase Fair Trade Certified products, your dollars reach more than 975,000 farmers and workers as they grapple with unforeseen challenges during the pandemic. There are more than 40,000 Fair Trade Certified products on the market from national retailers and independent brands. Purchases of these goods have sent $740 million to farmers and workers since 1998.
Support Fair Trade:
- Commit to becoming a fair trade advocate for a more just world simply by purchasing certified products. For example, LifeWay Network makes purchasing decisions for our organization that prioritize fair trade products.
- Talk to companies about what they’re doing to address slavery and forced labor in their supply chain. Visit www.slaveryfootprint.org for pre-written letters!
- Make your town, school, or workplace Fair Trade! Visit http://fairtradecampaigns.org/ for more information.
Resources on Fair Trade
1. Fair Trade USA: http://fairtradeusa.org/
2. Fairtrade America: http://fairtradeamerica.org/
3. World Fair Trade Organization: http://www.wfto.com/
4. Fair Trade Federation: http://www.fairtradefederation.org/
5. Equal Exchange: http://www.equalexchange.coop/
Fair Trade USA: https://www.fairtradecertified.org