Fair Trade: What’s it all about?
Have you ever wondered where coffee beans come from? Or did you ever think about who is involved in the making process of your favorite chocolate bar? Chances are that both of these products are produced in countries where the working conditions are not exactly ideal. In Africa, Asia and even South America workers work under extremely adverse and sometimes inhumane conditions in order for you and me to enjoy our beloved coffee and chocolate. The Fair Trade movement was created to address this issue. You have probably heard the phrase “Fair Trade” tossed around, but what does it really mean?
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a movement that promotes an alternative way of trading goods or commodities. Its aim is not to increase the profit of the large international companies that import and export these goods, but to help retain more profits at the product’s origin and in turn reduce the poverty of people in underdeveloped countries.
To this purpose, agricultural associations came together and decided to stand up against the monopolies of international companies who usually profit the most from agricultural exports. They decided to produce organically cultivated crops and export them without the interference of third parties. These products were then distributed to the Fair Trade shops and vendors in the Western World.
What’s more, they made sure that a set of standards were met throughout the whole process of producing a Fair Trade product. These standards included paying a fair price to the workers, ensuring environmental sustainability, ensuring equal rights to men and women, and prohibiting child labor.
A bit of history
The modern Fair Trade movement started in Europe in the 1960s. At the time it was seen as a political movement against neo-imperialism and its negative effect on the life of workers and the environment. Large student demonstrations began with the aim to target international companies and their policies. The main message was that the classic model of international trade was based on exploitation and unfair treatment of producers. Today Fair Trade is a global initiative that aids individual farmers and agricultural communities around the world.
So what are the criteria for a producer or an organization to be regarded as “Fair Trade”? Let’s take a look:
Fair price: A “fair price” is considered to be a price that covers the needs of the producer and their community.
Transparency: Fair Trade demands an administrative system that is transparent, both legally and financially.
Gender equality: Fair Trade organizations ensure that women participate in the process of negotiating the prices for their products and that they get equal pay for their labor.
Working conditions: Fair Trade organizations make sure that the rights of the workers are upheld and that they work under humane conditions.
Environmental protection: Fair Trade encourages the use of ecologically friendly methods that don’t pollute the environment.
Democracy: Agricultural associations which belong to Fair Trade are required to involve the farmers in the process of making decisions regarding the sale of their products.
That is Fair Trade in a nutshell! Keep in mind that even if you purchase coffee, sugar, chocolate or any other product from a Fair Trade shop you can help people make a living, and not just pad the pockets of another corporation.