What is fair trade?
It is well known that all manufacturers, producers, and products do not have equal access to customers around the globe for many reasons, starting from logistics and transportation to marketing and advertising. But, sometimes, even when they do find their way to the customers, they are not paid for fairly, and the invisible middleman takes its share of profit from the trade.
In order to provide all manufacturers with the possibility that their products reach more customers, and in return, earn a decent amount of money to improve their business and living conditions of their workers, a fair trade arrangement was put into place. As a result, it became the most recognized and trusted sustainability label on the global scale in a relatively short period of time, just a few decades. Nowadays, fair trade products are sold in over 120 countries worldwide, allowing secure and better income for many people all around the world. Moreover, consumers are increasingly interested in where and how their goods are produced. As a result, there is a massive and exciting movement toward selling and buying ethically made products.
This fair trade arrangement is designed to help producers achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships in developing countries in most cases, sometimes in others as well. Different types of products, including food, drinks, and crafts, but, for example, flowers and gold as well, are sourced through a fair supply chain, where small-scale farmers, producers, and artisans are treated with dignity, respect, and equality fairness.
Create Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
Transparency and Accountability
Fair Trading Practices
Payment of a Fair Price
Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor
Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equality, Freedom of Association
Ensuring Good Working Conditions
Providing Capacity Building
Promoting Fair Trade
Respect for the Environment
Fair trade is when the price we pay for various products (such as food, drink, fashion, and crafts) provides enough to producers to cover the cost of their products and have enough left in order to invest in their farms of businesses. So it is not just about survival; it is about improving year on year and building resilience. In many cases, producers receive a bonus as well, which they use in many ways; some build nursery homes for workers' children, others buy their workers bikes to ease their commute, and some even repair houses and buildings ruined in earthquakes.
Fair trade products have a "floor" price. This means that the specified crops cannot be sold below a specific price regardless of the market. This protects small farms and underrepresented communities from falling prey to market fluctuations and being bought out by larger farms.
Taking the above-mentioned into account, fair trade can also be seen as a solution to poverty and a development model. Therefore, producers are encouraged to understand more about market conditions and develop their skills, knowledge, and resources, allowing them to thrive.
Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, actively support producers, raise awareness, and campaign for changes in conventional international trade rules and practices.
There are several recognized fair trade certifiers, including Fairtrade International, IMO, Make Trade Fair, and Eco-Social.
The difference between Fairtrade and fair trade
Fairtrade is an international standard and certification system where producers and buyers agree to uphold specific minimum standards and payments. In return, their product can be labeled with the Fairtrade Foundation's Fairtrade Mark. This is a kind of "organic" system for the way buyers and farmers behave.
Fair trade, written as two words, means that something has been fairly traded, often above and beyond the minimum standards which Fairtrade sets.
The Fairtrade Mark ensures that these minimum standards have been observed, which is, of course, a great start. However, some companies have a more nuanced view that focuses not on a set of minimum standards but a holistic approach to, for example, food. So it is when they deliberately only buy food from smallholders (farmers who own their land) and not from plantations often owned by mega-corporations, focusing on organic produce wherever possible and good food quality.
These productions must be free of forced labor or poor working conditions for laborers. In addition, the crops are raised through sustainable methods, and no genetically modified crops are allowed to be certified Fair Trade.
If you see the Fairtrade Mark with a usually black arrow next to it, it means you should take a look at the back of the packaging to learn more about the ingredients and sourcing method. All the ingredients available under Fairtrade standards have to be Fairtrade (e.g., cocoa, sugar, and spice).
What products are fair trade?
Now when you know what fair trade is and you wish to support the producers, below is a list of fair trade products, so next time you are buying something, you can buy them and do a good deed at the same time.
These are, among others, bananas, cocoa, coffee, flowers, sugar, tea, cotton, tropical fruits, juices, gold, herbs and spices, honey, nuts and oil, quinoa, rice, sports balls (for football, handball, volleyball, and rugby), sugar, tea, textiles, vegetable, and wine.
Moreover, some companies offer handmade decorations and jewelry made by women who make them in their own homes or local communities. By buying those, you support those businesses as well.
So, in the end, the decision is up to all the consumers, including you. Every time you go to the store, whether brick and mortar or online, you can make fair trade purchasing decisions, or you can buy the first thing you see, without thinking what kind of impact it makes not only on the planet but on the people who produced it as well.
If we all paid a little bit more attention to all our actions, not only buying, buy consumption as well, and decided to look for things that have a positive impact on the environment, people who made them, and, in the end, ourselves, the world would become a better place in no time.