What Exactly is Fair Trade?

February 04, 2017

What Exactly is Fair Trade?

When you purchase clothes, jewelry or home décor, what are the most important factors at play? Price, quality, and appearance are undoubtedly integral to your choice but to thousands of conscious consumers around the world, the fair trade mark is just as important.
Fair trade is, simply put, a movement which advocates better prices, working conditions and fairer terms of trade for millions of farmers and workers around the world. When you purchase something with the fair trade mark you’re essentially paying the producers enough money to afford essentials such as nutritious food, access to healthcare and education, and community improvements.
The key principle behind fair trade is providing thriving farming and worker communities with the means to sustain and support their future development, as well as granting them more control over their futures all whilst protecting the environment. The Fair Trade Federation principles are directly derived from the World Fair Trade Organization and advocate fair trading practices which include the development of transparent relationships, creating opportunities for those producers who are economically or socially marginalized, and taking a firm stand against discrimination, poor work conditions, or child labor.
Fair trade is essentially a strategy which aims to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development in countries from the third world or any point of the globe. Members of the fair trade organizations place the interests of producers and their communities first in order to create better opportunities for growth. The idea is to develop the producers’ own independence by creating long-term transparent relationships based on trust, mutual respect, and solidarity. Members often offer financial and technical assistance and market information to promote capacity and help economically or socially marginalized producers to reach the world markets.
When you’re buying fair trade, you’re essentially making sure that those, who are responsible for your goods, have been paid promptly and fairly. One of the key principles of fair trade is to ensure prices are sufficient for workers to earn more than enough to meet their day-to-day needs, and members often offer advance payments in order to help suppliers fulfill the orders. All of this is done in order to turn trade into a positive force that can transform and improve living standards, health, education and the global environment.
One of the most serious issues we’re dealing with today is unsafe or hazardous working conditions. Fair trade members strive to support and provide safe and empowering working conditions, where forced or child labor is abolished, and eliminate any discrimination based on race, gender, political affiliation or sexual orientation, age, health status and more. This also includes protecting the rights of children to security, education, and play, so all fair trade organizations disclose the involvement of children in their production and take a firm stand against child trafficking and exploitative labor.
All of the above-listed practices aim to make workplaces around the world safer and more secure and ensure that suppliers and producers are paid for their time and labor, receiving more than enough to sustain their day-to-day needs. However, fair trade is also about sustainability, both in terms of future generations and cultures.
Environmental stewardship is a key principle of fair trade, and its center lies the idea of meeting your current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. Fair trade organizations promote sustainability and responsible stewardship of all kinds of resources by reducing, reusing, reclaiming and recycling materials.
Last but certainly not least, fair trade is about celebrating cultural identity. Many of your favorite pieces of jewelry and home décor items are created by indigenous communities from around the globe, and fair trade practices aim to respect not only the labor and time of the suppliers but also their traditions and techniques. This is not only a way to ensure safe and fair working conditions but also sustains cultures and indigenous practices for the years to come.
In a nutshell, fair trade is a partnership which is based on dialogue, mutual respect, and transparency, which aims to make trading the driving force of progress for everyone involved. Many of the fair trade practices contribute directly to greater equality and cultural and environmental sustainability. When you buy fair trade, you’re not only honoring the labor of those behind the product but also helping secure the rights of marginalized producers and workers, especially in developing countries.
So, what does fair trade do? It proves that trade should not – and it is not – always exploitative, but can be turned into a way to improve living conditions and help communities develop. It also highlights the disadvantages of conventional trades and puts forward a successful business model in which people, and not revenues, are put first. But before all, fair trade is a way to contribute to a safer and better world for all of us.