We’ve been talking a lot about fair trade recently, and there’s good reason. The movement is growing rapidly in the U.S. (Fair Trade Strikes a Note with American Consumers, and the selection of free trade merchandise is expanding (Fair Trade – From Olive Oil to Elephant-Dung Paper). Apparel retailers are starting to gain a conscience about their supply chain (Who’s Who in Advancing Fair Trade in Apparel) after the collapse of an eight-story garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh killed 1,127 and injured 2,500 in April of 2013 (International Compassion in Action – Mostly). Now that fair trade is an organized social movement gaining steam, we want to summarize the humanitarian value of purchasing fair products. In general, fair trade exists to ensure that producers in developing countries have better trading conditions, workers have more rights, and that all trade supports environmental sustainability. Here are our thoughts on the TOP TEN reasons that your should support fair trade: 1. Ending global slavery In the past, international retailers simply denied any responsibility for workers in their supply chain. After years of worker and consumer activism, fair trade organizations have forced and a number of companies to developed extensive corporate social responsibility programs. Approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked each year for the purposes of forced labor. Fair trade serves as a mitigating influence on forced child labor through local organizations. If children participate in any way in the production process, the local organization must disclose the extent of their involvement and ensure that they are not being adversely affected in terms of their well being, security, educational requirements, and need for play. 2. Building sustainable businesses Fair trade ensures that farmers and artisans in developing countries deal directly with market buyers. Workers form co-operatives in which both men and women have a say and are more in control of their future than they were before. 3. Investing in the future The premium that is paid on top of the agreed price helps producers improve their quality of life. Producers decide democratically how to use premium money. Typically they invest it in education, health care, working improvements or processing facilities to increase income.
4. Empowering women Fair trade frees women to play an active role in their families’ development by enabling them to start businesses with a fair salary, guaranteed access to health care, job rights, and freedom from harassment. 5. Setting stable prices For most products there is a fair trade minimum price that aims that covers the costs of sustainable production, even when world market prices fall.
6. Establishing partnerships Producers get involved in decisions that affect their future. Through organizations such as Fair Trade International and Fair Trade USA, producers participate in committees and consultation processes and can influence prices, premiums, standards, and overall strategy.
7. Protecting the planet Fair Trade ensures that that farmers follow internationally monitored environmental standards. 8. Providing financial incentives and resources Fair Trade monitoring standards oversee organic conversion, reforestation, water conservation, and environmental education. 9. Encouraging organic farming Use of agrochemicals is avoided as much as possible, improving farmers’ health as well as their income. Economic burdens for farmers are lower, because they are not forced to purchase seeds for infertile plants from the powerful multinational corporations that make them. 10. Arousing consumer awareness The benefits of Fair Trade extend not only to producers in developing countries. Since demand for fair trade products is on the rise and more items are available each day, consumers are developing a moral conscience toward their purchases. This means that we are more aware of cheap products made at the expense of the poor and the environment.
Fair Trade and Social Justice: Global Ethnographies