The Definition of Fairtrade: A Basic Explanation

A Fairtrade label or symbol can now be found on many chocolates, coffee, bananas, and fruits. It is also increasingly applied to garments and handicrafts. People can instantly tell if a product has been certified as Fairtrade by looking for that label.

Consumers often do not think much about Fairtrade or a real Fairtrade definition, except that it has something to do with bettering the treatment of workers and employees. This is true, but Fairtrade has a far broader meaning, which more people should be aware of. Fair trade is also a vital step in making the world a better place, including improving the health of the environment.

So, you are probably wondering what the definition of modern Fairtrade really is. To help you get a better understanding of the system, how it works and why you should consider making a Fairtrade purchase over a standard purchase when you have the chance, we are going to take a closer look at these issues and more here.

 

Fairtrade Definition: The Basics

So, what exactly does “Fairtrade” entail? Fairtrade, according to the dictionary, is a commerce transaction between corporations in wealthy countries and producers in developing countries in which the producers are paid fair rates. That is an extremely basic, perhaps not even very helpful definition of Fairtrade though, and it really deserves a greater explanation.

 

Benefits of Fair TradeFairtrade: The Early Days

There are many stories and anecdotes regarding Fairtrade’s beginnings, but in a nutshell, it all started in 1946 when Ten Thousand Towns (formerly Self-Help Crafts) began importing needlework from Puerto Rico, and in the late 1940s, SERRV began trading with destitute villages in the South. The first formal “Fairtrade” shop in the United States, selling these and other items, opened in 1958.

Fairtrade originated in Europe in the late 1950s when Oxfam UK started selling things made by Chinese refugees in their stores. In 1964, it founded the first Fairtrade Organization. Parallel efforts were made in the Netherlands, and the importing group Fairtrade Original was created in 1967. So, in other words, lots of people have been involved in a movement that has now been in existence for over seventy years.

The one thing all of these efforts had in mind was that those who produced good sold were properly reimbursed for their efforts and as a result could lead a better life. A simple, noble goal, although the movement behind it has become more complex than that.

 

How Does Fairtrade Work?

Fairtrade necessitates an elevated level of transparency and communication between sellers and producers, and there may be multiple layers of communication and regulation before the product reaches the consumer, depending on the commodity.

Consumers may quickly recognize that a product has been independently audited and is truly Fairtrade by looking for fair trade labels/certificates. In the case of food, for example, crops are cultivated and harvested in accordance with international Fairtrade rules, and the supply chain is carefully regulated. Various Fairtrade Certificates, such as the WFTO‘s Guaranteed Fair Trade Goods Label or the International Fairtrade Certification Mark by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, may be available depending on the type of Fairtrade product.

The products, supply chains, and even the business are subject to worldwide Fairtrade standards, which monitor price, labor, purchasing, and other ethical issues, thanks to independent auditors and certifying authorities. This is to ensure that the product is made with fair prices top of mind, decent salaries are paid, and no ‘sweatshops’ or child labor is involved. When a consumer sees the Fairtrade mark, they can rest certain that the product has been independently verified to meet international Fairtrade standards.

 

Why Consumers Should Buy Fairtrade

Many Fairtrade products are things that the average consumer buys anyway. Coffee, fruit, clothing, yes, chocolate, it is all stuff most of us purchase regularly, so Fairtrade gods are rarely things that would be considered a frivolous buy (except maybe the chocolate, but even that has its health benefits, and it is a simple joy that can be wonderful in moderation!)

You are making a difference for someone else by purchasing Fairtrade items. You are spending money to help another community, lessening the likelihood of a youngster being forced to labor at an early age.

You will also be aiding a family by supporting a system that provides a consistent and livable income and also helps ensure that benefits are passed onto the larger local community, often in the form of investments in quality of living upgrades to essential shared systems – often water, medical and educational – that everyone will feel the positive impact from.

Fairtrade products also ensure that the environment is not as harmed during the manufacturing process. Things such as over-harvesting, deforestation and poor farming husbandry practices are having a significant negative impact on the planet on a global scale, and as an increasing number of people are realizing, every effort helps in the fight to ‘save the planet’.

The system is not perfect, as some critics point out. It can be hard for producers to obtain Fairtrade certifications and the fees involved do often cut into their profit margins. However, such things are actively being worked on, in an attempt to make the original definition of Fairtrade as close to realization as possible.

Fair trade is a wonderful way to help others while also feeling good about the products you use. When you see the Fairtrade mark, you can rest assured that the product was made without the use of child labor, sweatshops, or dangerous factories, that the growers/farmers were fairly compensated for their labor and products, and that you will be supporting women-led businesses in many cases, which is a huge plus. These are all things that you cannot be sure of when you purchase a mass-produced product offered by a giant corporation whose major goal is increased profits (and decreased production costs.)

And the last benefit when discussing Fairtrade? At the heart of the definition of Fairtrade is the production of a quality product. When you take the time to farm crops organically, without the overuse of pesticides, for example, you get a finished product that tastes better and is better for your health.