Fair Trade products are part of a program started by people who wanted to use their purchasing power to ensure that small farmers, crafters and artisans had the chance to compete with bigger corporations and make a fair wage doing it. Any small company that wants to operate under the Fairtrade umbrella needs to follow certain rules and regulations and get certified. The certification needs to be renewed every couple of years.
That oversight makes sure that companies don’t just follow the rules in order to get certified and then change their business practices. The program is largely viewed as being good for consumers and good for small businesses. But, some people say that the disadvantages of Fair Trade outweigh the advantages. Take a look at some of the disadvantages and decide for yourself if purchasing these products is something that is right for you.
Buying Fair Trade Products Cost More
It is true that consumers usually pay a little more for products that have Fair Trade Certification. Any products that are ethically produced from produce to shoes are going to cost more than similar products that are sold at big stores. But price is not the bottom line for socially conscious consumers. Typically, Fairtrade items are no more than a few dollars more expensive than the alternatives. Those few dollars might equal skipping a cup of coffee-shop coffee or waiting an extra week to buy a new sweater that you want. But to the artists, crafters, farmers and small business owners whose products you are buying those few dollars have a huge impact. Those extra dollars mean that a child can go to school, or a woman who is trapped in an unsafe situation can finally file for divorce and support herself. Those dollars eliminate food insecurity for families and provide clean water for communities.
Fair Trade Certification is Expensive
Another disadvantage that is often mentioned is that getting Fair Trade certification is expensive for the individuals and small businesses that the program wants to help. The initial process of getting certified can be expensive. But the benefit to the business is enormous. Being a certified business can increase sales by 15% or more for most businesses. There are expenses to running any business and paying for the certification necessary to be part of the program is a business expense that provides a great return. Businesses also need to renew their Fair Trade certification every couple of years which does cost a bit, although it costs less than the initial certification. Being re-certified every few years is important because it ensures that the business if following the protocols of the program. Because of the added marketability that the certification brings the cost is not a hindrance to most businesses.
Does it make a difference which Fair Trade Product I buy?
This disadvantage of Fair Trade is one that consumers who aren’t really familiar with the program often raise. They think that it really doesn’t make a difference if you buy these products or not so people should just buy the cheapest product. To a large corporation, it’s true that a single purchase won’t make a difference. But to a small independent business that purchase does matter. Every dollar earned can make a dramatic difference for a family-owned business or artist cooperative. It might seem like buying these products isn’t really an important choice to make because you don’t see the impact but dig a little deeper into how Fair Trade works and you will be amazed at the difference your purchase can make.