Does Fair Trade make a difference?
When you buy Fair Trade products you only spend a little bit of extra money on those products. But that little bit of extra money that guarantees a fair wage to the artisan or craftspeople who make those items adds up to massive amounts of money that is used to fund huge change. More than 4 billion dollars are spent on Fair Trade products yearly.
The huge buying power of consumers who come together to purchase Fair Trade items has directly impacted countless communities both here and in developing countries. It’s easy to tell yourself that the extra money you pay for items won’t make a difference in the long run as a way to justify buying a lower priced item from a chain discount store. But the truth is that the extra money you spend on fairly produced items makes an enormous difference in the world. When you buy these products you are making a difference in the world.
Funds go directly to Fair Trade Artisans
That’s because the premiums that you pay on Fair Trade items go directly to the person that made the product, not to the shareholders of some giant global corporation. Your money is not paying for some executive’s private jet or fancy home. It’s putting food on the table for the family of a craftsman. It’s funding a public school in a developing community. It’s giving a woman the money she needs to leave her abusive husband and feed her children. It’s promoting growth and independence in communities around the world. It’s also helping the environment. The crafters and artists who create these products are not pouring chemicals into river or creating massive environmental damage with huge factories. They are using locally made and sustainably produced materials to create beautiful fairtrade products that are very high quality and will last.
It changes communities
Buying Fair Trade also changes the way that communities are run. When a small business prospers because of the program that money and success impact the entire community. That one small business that is supported by the purchases that you and people like you make will provide employment for local workers, money for the local community to use for health care, education, and streamlined services like water and sanitation. These small businesses will also be able to mentor other small business owners and teach those business owners the skills they have learned from the Fairtrade program. When small businesses thrive the community thrives. When these communities thrive the country thrives. When the country thrives and contributes to the global economy other countries thrive. Fair Trade is the heart of a new type of consumerism – consumerism that cares.
Are you a thoughtful consumer?
The global recession rocked many countries, and many of them are still trying to recover. But the recession also made people realize how interconnected people are with each other, with other communities, and with other countries. These days consumers are more thoughtful about what they buy and really want to know that their purchases have meaning because. When you buy ethically produced products for fair prices you are helping other people just like you to follow their dreams and help their communities. Together everyone can build a stronger economy and a brighter future.
Benefits of Fair Trade Products
It can be a challenge to find the extra money for Fair Trade clothing and products if you are on a tight budget. Sometimes it may seem like it’s just easier to buy the items you need from discount stores. But you can choose to support it, even on a limited budget. With a little planning and a little ingenuity you can find ways to stick to your budget and still only buy certified items. The higher quality of these items means they will last longer, so a little extra money spent now means that you won’t have to replace the item in a few months and spend even more money. Think of the long term benefits of shopping for these items instead of the short term loss of money. The sacrifice of paying a slightly higher price up front for well-made ethically produced items is worth it when you remember what you are a part of when you buy these handcrafted sustainably produced items.
There has been an interesting discussion over at the poverty matters blog. Vidal wrote that IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) has attacked fair trade products and their certification, suggesting that it is misleading consumers, expensive and an unproven idea.
So, the grim forces of reason and neoliberal economic efficiency must be worried. It’s only November and the Institute of Economic Affairs has already launched a vicious, 130-page report detailing how fair trade is “costly, opaque and substantially unproven”. According to the IEA, it distorts markets, misleads consumers, holds back social development, celebrates backward forms of production, relies on inefficient cooperatives and has high administration costs. Oh, and it is neocolonialistic and paternalistic, not a strategy for long-term development and its claims are exaggerated.
Fair Trade is 100% better than doing nothing
I find it interesting when I hear what the sceptics argue that Fair Trade is not going to solve poverty. Show me research that has ever suggested that it will solve global poverty? The point I’d like to make is, “Fair Trade is 100% better than doing nothing“ or what was excellently mentioned in the comments by ‘afterthebrain’; “Every worker who receives a fair wage for his or her toil is a small but important victory for humankind.”
Interestingly though, I’ve seen a rise in manufacturers of products such as coffee and fair trade shoes suggesting that their product is “Fairtrade”, failing however, to get certified. To me, this is what is misleading to consumers. People need to be educated and companies need to become certified. That’s my two-cents worth about Fair Trade. Steph.
The many benefits and pros of fair trade clothing, fair trade shoes and products are clear once one learns that its main goal is to alleviate poverty in developing countries and inculcate the value of sustainable development. It aims to create more opportunities for producers facing economic disadvantage over multinational companies. Because it also aims for sustainable development, both workers and producers are being offered much better trading conditions than before. Here we aim to answer “What are Trade Benefits of Fair Trade?”
Five Benefits of Fair Trade can easily be seen
First benefit is that it increases the income of the producers of the farmers. This is achieved through two steps –
- The price of the goods are paid at an agreed and guaranteed fair price for the producer and manufacturer.
- The distribution channels involved in marketing the goods is also reduced thus the producers get a larger share from the price of the goods rather than the distribution company.
Second benefit is that because they now have a larger share of the pie, both farmers and workers have extra income with which to improve their lives. The price of a specific good is typically computed to cover the cost of both sustainable production and livelihood. A premium is also added to the price to be used as investment for development projects. These projects include building schools, funding scholarships and even used to fund low-interest loans for farmers and workers.
Third benefit is that is involves greater environmental protection. The Fair Trade Certification being used to market the products does not only show where the good comes from and who benefits from it. It also tells consumer how the good was made and manufactured. For agricultural goods for example, the use of some pesticides is not allowed and hence giving consumer greater satisfaction in knowing that the goods are safe.
Fourth benefit is the advantage that farmers are able to obtain a better and stronger foothold in the world market. Because buyers deal directly with the farmers, the farmers are able to get good prices for their products in the market.
Fifth benefit is that it provides a closer link to the producers and consumers. Most consumers nowadays are environmentally conscious and thus want to know more about their products. In addition, consumers also want to know just how much the ones who originally make the products are getting. Thus in the end consumers become satisfied with the quality of their products and the farmers get satisfaction from knowing that they got paid accordingly for the goods they produced.
Benefits of Fair Trade Products
These are just a few of the many benefits of fair trade has, for most consumers, knowing where the product came, who benefits from it and how it was made makes the purchase all the more fulfilling.
The Story of Fair trade Coffee and What it Really Means
Although there are now many Fairtrade products available on the shelves of stores the movement began with what may still be the offering most familiar to consumers if you ask them about the initiative; fair trade coffee.
Global Coffee Facts
Legend has it that the fact that the beans from the coffee bean tree could be used to create a tasty and energizing beverage was first discovered by weary goat-herders in the Kaffa province of Ethiopia. Although that story is not formally documented the fact that 12th century Yemenites seeking a way to stay up all night to pray turned to coffee to do so is. And the rest, as they say, is history. By the 16th century, coffee was being widely consumed in Africa and the East and it had even made its way to Europe where it quickly became the fashionable choice of the wealthy.
These days of course coffee is a staple that many of us could not imagine starting the day without. Global coffee consumption has in fact doubled in just over 40 years, leaping from 4.2m tons in 1970 to 8.8m tons in 2014 and the US is the world’s largest consumer of imported coffee. Chains like Starbucks make billions and even fast food restaurants like McDonalds have entered the gourmet coffee arena successfully.
If there is one thing that’s for sure it’s that we love our coffee. We just really don’t usually have much of an idea what goes into growing and making it or what challenges and difficulties coffee growers face. And there are far more than just a few.
Coffee and the Fairtrade Initiative
As we just mentioned, it was coffee that got the concept of fair trade off the ground in the first place. Although coffee is grown, harvested and produced in more than 70 countries worldwide 70% of it comes from Latin America. And when global coffee prices crashed in the late 1980s many coffee farmers in the region were left in dire straits, forced to accept less than half per pound than just a few months before.
All of this led to the creation of the very first Fairtrade product. An initiative of the Dutch development agency Solidaridad, Max Havelaar coffee, produced by Mexican coffee farmers, hit the shelves of Dutch supermarkets in 1989 and the idea has spread far and wide ever since. The coffee, by the way, was named after the main protagonist in a transformational Dutch novel of the same named that helped change the unfair policies and grueling conditions workers faced in the Dutch colonies in the 19th century, making it very appropriate for use in this situation.
What Fair Trade Does for Coffee Farmers
At the heart of the initiative as it applies to coffee growers is an assurance that under the fairtrade system they will always be guaranteed the Fairtrade Minimum Price for their goods, along with extra money – around 20 cents per pound – that is to be used specifically to grow the business. In addition, organic coffee farmers receive an additional 30 cents per pound as long as their farming methods meet the accepted standards for organic produce.
What this means that even if the global coffee market fluctuates significantly, which it has several times since the crash of the Eighties, these smaller producers are still assured of a fair return on all of their hard work, safeguarding their businesses for the future and allowing for much-needed growth.
As is the case for all Fair trade certified offerings in order to remain in the program providers must meet certification standards at all times. These include rules on minimum wages paid to workers, sustainable farming practices and the assurance of a discrimination-free workplace for women.
More Than Just a Fair Price
Fair trade does provide more to coffee farmers than a fair price, though. Some may be able to access Fairtrade Premium, a source of additional capital to help improve infrastructures and provide worker education. There are also a wealth of educational resources available to all that help coffee farmers from all over the world remain competitive in an ever-changing market.
So, the next time you are in the coffee aisle at the supermarket and are faced with a choice between a big name brand and a fair trade coffee remember that by deciding on the latter you will not only be getting a great cup of coffee but your dollars will be making a real difference in someone’s life far away as well..
What is Fairtrade and Why Should You Care?
No doubt you’ve seen the Fairtrade label on goods and products in supermarkets, grocery stores, maybe even clothing and home goods stores, more than once or twice before. You may have even purchased one or two Fairtrade products in the past. But how much do you really know about the concept behind the label and what it really means to the both you, the consumer and the people who bring the product to you in the first place?
A Helping Hand, Not Charity
Some people mistakenly believe that Fairtrade is a charitable effort of some sort, the kind that disperses aid to the disadvantaged. That could not, however, be further from the truth. Fairtrade is all about business but also about securing fair pricing, better working conditions and greater independence for farmers and workers from all over the world.
Many of the providers do indeed come from some of the most marginalized and disadvantaged communities in the world, but rather than simply handing over aid money Fairtrade gives them the chance to grow their own businesses and improve not only their own lives but that of everyone else in their communities, from the inside out.
What Fairtrade Means for Providers
When those who work within the Fairtrade system say that it changes lives they are not exaggerating in any way. Not just the lives of the farmers, craftspeople, and other providers but also their family, their friends, their entire town or village.
By being allowed to use the skills and knowledge they already possess to grow a real business, one that can be passed down from generation to generation, people – and it is both men and women – are taking their future into their own hands rather than waiting and hoping that someone else will come along and do it for them. And, as a sort of added bonus, the farming and production practices of smaller scale farmers, growers and craftspeople is almost inevitably far more eco-friendly and, once again, that benefits far more people than just one or two, it can actually benefit everyone on the planet.
The movement has proved to be of particular benefit to women. While it is traditional that women perform much of the work on plantations, farms and in factories in many countries they also face discrimination, harassment, and even abuse while doing so. When empowered thanks to the Fairtrade initiative they can receive proper healthcare, protection from discrimination, pursue educational opportunities and some do start their own businesses, providing them with financial freedom their grandmothers, and even mothers, might never have thought was even possible.
What Fairtrade Means for Consumers
The big question for you, of course, is probably why should I seek out and buy Fair trade products? Well, there are the obvious reasons; your purchase is truly helping others, by opting for Fairtrade you will be helping a good idea become an even bigger and better idea and you will be making a difference in someone’s life that is tangible and rather easy to understand. Opting to spend your money on, say, Fairtrade certified coffee rather than Starbucks or another big name corporate brand may seem like a very small thing to do but the impact is far greater than you might know, especially if you encourage your friends and family to do the same thing.
But there is something ‘in it for you’ as well. Fairtrade certified produce is free of any genetically engineered ingredients and must, in order to meet certification standards, be cultivated with minimal use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers. In addition, all certified providers are required to meet strict standards in terms of water and waste management, worker conditions and energy use. All of these things are good for the environment and though that environment may be far away from where you live by now we all know that the ‘knock-on’ effects of environmental bad practices – and conversely environmentally sound practices – will end up affecting everyone, no matter where they live. So that one simple purchase choice actually has plenty of upside for you and your family too, aside from the fact you’ll get some great stuff!
The average consumer is often turned off from buying fair trade products upon learning that the prices are higher than commercial ones. The prices go higher still when the products are sold at specialty shops instead of regular stores. Just how is a product priced?
Fair Trade Certification
When a product obtains certification the minimum price is often set by certain standards. The minimum price of the product is the amount that a buyer, a wholesaler for example, has to pay the producers who made the product. Unlike other commercial items, the price of fair trade products is not fixed. Since it aims for producers to practice sustainable production the minimum is set at the cost that covers the production. This ensures that even if the market price for that product falls below the minimum set, the farmers will not be at a loss. Thus it plays the role of a safety net. However if the market price goes way above the minimum level then the buyer has to pay the producers the current market price. In addition both the wholesalers and producers can negotiate for a higher price if it is determined that the product is of high quality, among other requirements.
Fair Trade Products for sale
Because the idea of fair trade is to cut the distribution chain, it does not answer why some of the products remain to be sold at a higher price. Thus aside from the price of the fair trade products, it is agreed upon by the producers and wholesalers, the agencies though the FLO Standards Unit puts an additional price on top of it. This may seem counterproductive since the price of the product will obviously be higher than the current market price.
Fair Trade adds improvement to communities
There is however a purpose why a premium is added. The income from the premium is used as investment capital in order to develop projects geared for the producers and workers economic, environmental and social improvement. For example, the amount can be invested to build schools and their communities in the area where the products are manufactured. It can also be used to build or improvement facilities that will help in increasing the yield or enhancing the quality. By focusing on improvements in the area it is envisioned that the income of the producers and the wholesalers increase.
So the next time you hesitate on buying fair trade products because of its price, give it a second thought. Buying Fair Trade products not only means that you help the environment but it also means that you are helping people lead better lives.