What is Fair Trade?

Most people are aware that, in developed countries, the average person receives fair pay for their labor. They benefit from safe working conditions, representation through unions, and a limited number of hours they can work. Their interests, livelihoods, and well-being are all protected through labor laws.

 While we may take these laws for granted, the work environment we’re used to is a far cry from what most people experience throughout the world. In fact, many workers in developed countries don’t receive the same protections and rights as their fellow citizens. Fair trade was created to right these wrongs and support artisans, farmers, and workers all across the globe.

 What is Fair Trade?

 Let’s start with the basics. Conventional trade, also known as free trade, puts the owner’s profit before creating a safe workplace, supporting workers’ rights, investing in the community, and protecting the environment. That’s why nearly 200-million children work in sweatshops throughout the world today.

 On the other hand, fair trade puts people, communities, and the planet before profit. It’s a global network and movement made up of workers, producers, companies, and various organizations all working together to protect workers’ rights and the environment.

Fair trade is founded on nine principles:

 Create opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers

  • Develop transparent and accountable relationships
  • Build capacity
  • Promote fair trade
  • Pay promptly and fairly
  • Support safe and empowering working conditions
  • Ensure the rights of children
  • Cultivate environmental stewardshipPhoto 
  • Respect cultural identity
what is fair trade?
Photo Source: Mata Traders

Why Should I Shop Fair Trade?

 When you shop fair trade, you’re buying ethically made goods. Many goods purchased outside of fair trade come at the expense of other people or the entire planet. According to the organization Fight Slavery Now, goods as common as coffee, sugar, rice, and cotton are often produced with slave labor or child labor. Similarly, the fast fashion industry, which makes buying new clothing easy and inexpensive, produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon, pollutes the oceans with harmful microplastics, and is second-only in water consumption to farming.

 Fair trade is a just and ethical alternative to free trade. When you shop fair trade, you’re supporting:

    the livelihoods and communities of the people making your goods

  an industry that is free from slave or child labor

  a system that guarantees the ethical and environmentally conscious sourcing of products and materials

 How Do I Know What Is and Is Not Fair Trade?

 Some people worry that fair trade is just a marketing gimmick. That’s why it’s important to be an informed buyer. So, what is fair trade and what is not?

 When something is produced following the nine principles of fair trade, it will be labelled by an official fair trade organization such as Fair Trade International or Fair Trade Certified.

There are many other labels that we commonly see on goods: Rainforest Alliance, USDA Organic, Made in the USA, etc. While these goods can be a better alternative to free trade, they don’t meet all of the fair-trade qualifications. For example, “Rainforest Alliance” guarantees a product was made sustainably, but it does not guarantee that workers’ rights were protected. Fair trade products, on the other hand, guarantee both.

 For more facts on fair trade, see this article from Ohio Fair Trade.

 The Power of Purchase

 There’s a story behind everything you buy. Whether it’s a pair of earrings, a new shirt, or a bag of coffee, the things we purchase are connected to the people and communities who made them. Fair trade looks to support those people and communities. If you want to help create long-term, positive impacts on artisans and farmers, all while enjoying quality goods, please consider shopping fair trade.

fair trade
Photo Source: Gifts & Decorative Accessories