What is Fair-trade?

Whether walking around the grocery store or shopping online, you are seeing certain products from coffee beans to cotton shirts labeled with “Fair-trade”. Most consumers assume this is a positive thing, but what does it really mean and why is it important?

Fair-trade is a movement with the goal to help producers in developing countries receive a fair price for their products, to help them tackle poverty, provide ethical treatment for workers and apply environmentally sustainable practices. Small-scale farmers and workers are among the most marginalized by the global trade system (https://www.fairtrade.net/). So utilizing a Fair-trade system is important for the success and longevity for these small-scale farms and businesses. 

When working within the Fair-trade system, the prices charged by farmers and workers can cover the average cost of sustainable product production which allows for a vital safety net if the market price drops. The farmers and workers also receive a premium, an extra sum of money paid on top of the selling price to invest in the business or community. The Fair-trade system also allows for decent working conditions, a ban on forced and child labor, and security for the future. 

In order to be able to label a product as Fair-trade, there is a range of economic, environmental and social criteria that must be met by producers and traders. For economic standards there is a Fair-trade minimum price and fixed premium that must be met. Environmental criteria encourages ecologically and agriculturally sound practices. This includes responsible water and waste management, preserving biodiversity and soil fertility, and minimal use of pesticides and agrochemicals. Fair trade also prohibits many hazardous materials and genetically modified organisms. Socially, for the producers their are requirements on democratic self-organization, participatory decision-making, transparency and non-discrimination. As well as producers are required to pay laborers equal or higher than the legal minimum wages, allow freedom of association, collective bargaining rights and provide safeguards for workers safety and health. 

The Fair-trade system is crucial for the success and survival of so many laborers and their communities, so as a consumer your choice matters. Every Fair-trade product purchased, you are supporting small-scale workers and their ability to invest in their lives, communities and environmentally sustainable practices.

What you purchase has an impact, so make a thoughtful choice.