Many of us are pausing to consider the impact of purchasing Fair Trade – and how we can help to improve working conditions and build sustainable business practices worldwide.
By linking producers in developing countries directly to Western purchasers, here are seven powerful reasons Fair Trade can change global trade.
1. Fair Trade benefits small-scale producers
Producers in developing countries are some of the poorest of the poor. With unfair prices and atrocious working conditions worldwide, Fair Trade first and foremost looks to provide an alternative. Giving small-scale producers what they deserve for their hard work.
With Fair Trade standards in place, producers can be guaranteed a minimum price, based on local economic conditions. This covers production costs and provisions for workers to receive a decent living standard.
For many small-scale producers, this is the difference between whether their families eat or do not.
2. Fair Trade makes an impact on whole communities
As well as helping individual producers, Fair Trade products help whole communities.
In our global economy, trade is an essential means of impacting markets, and subsequently communities, worldwide. However, unfair trading can be extremely detrimental and exploitative.
The price of Fair Trade items includes a ‘social premium’, which goes directly to projects agreed by local communities. This small amount on individual products goes a long way.
Producers and workers invest this money into a wide range of projects. From building and equipping schools and clinics to installing sanitary water supplies and toilets. Everything from environmental improvements to loans for new business start-ups.
These are the changes that not only affect workers’ lives now, but give whole communities a new chance for the future.
3. Fair Trade challenges big business
When trading internationally, big business deals often include a huge number of middlemen looking for the best outcome for their company overheads. But at what cost?
Simply put, workers are being exploited to increase ‘fast fashion’ profit margins. This needs to be challenged.
Taking coffee as an example, this can be bought and sold over a hundred times before it reaches your cup. With Fair Trade, products are bought directly from producers; cutting down (and sometimes out) the middlemen.
This process challenges big business to change their way of thinking. It emphasises that there is another way to trade. Offering a fair deal that benefits countless lives.
By insisting on Fair Trade products, shoppers are sending a powerful message. Without doubt, this message is being heard. All major supermarkets in the UK stock Fair Trade food and drink, and Fair Trade is becoming more popular on the high street.
This is a message that needs to continue.
4. Fair Trade is better for people and the planet
As well as affecting the living standards of workers and providing communities with incredible projects, Fair Trade is equally invested in protecting the environment.
For example, Fair Trade encourages farmers to protect their ecosystems and reduce the use of harmful chemicals. To achieve Fair Trade certification, these farms must have sustainable irrigation practices, low carbon emissions, minimised use of agrochemicals and safe management of pests and waste.
With producers making great strides for sustainability, this also benefits the quality of their products. With a fair deal, workers can invest more time and money on environmental education, ensuring minimal impact to our ecosystem, and more thorough quality testing.
Placing an emphasis on the environment is therefore both ethical and helps show Fair Trade as a benchmark for quality.
5. Fair Trade helps protect children
Children aged twelve and over are allowed by international law to perform light work, providing this doesn’t harm their health, safety or education. However, millions of children around the world are forced to work long hours in insufferable conditions.
With adult income too low to feed, clothe and house a family, parents will send their children to work – or face even more dire circumstances.
Despite long hours and harmful conditions, child labour is commonplace in the production of coffee, cocoa, jewellery, textiles and much more. Many of these children are younger than ten years old and often experience dangerous working conditions. In some plantations, beatings are common – or worse, for those who try to flee.
This needs worldwide solutions. Organisations such as Save the Children and Anti-Slavery International are campaigning for change, while Fair Trade allows poorer households to earn a fair wage, meaning they don’t need to send their children to work.
When you buy a product with the Fair Trade mark, you can be sure that children aged under 15 have not been forced into work to produce it. These rules help make the world a safer place for children.
6. Fair Trade raises awareness of trade justice
Fair Trade unites producers in developing counties with millions of consumers in the West. This is a global movement and each participant is helping to raise awareness of trade justice and the standard that should be attained worldwide.
By buying these products and spreading the word of Fair Trade, people in Western countries are demonstrating that they want fairness in the international trading system.
Fair Trade is a demonstration. It helps raise awareness about the conditions that people in developing countries live. It highlights that people in Western countries care.
With fair international trading systems and rules, agreed internationally, businesses can be held accountable and trade fairly. However, current standards still need to go a long way; these are heavily weighted in favour of wealthier countries and large companies.
The Trade Justice Movement urges Western government to ensure that developing countries are not neglected a solution to end poverty. The Movement is supported by more than 80 UK organisations, with over 9 million members – find out more here.
Buying Fair Trade continues to support trade justice. It helps end exploitation; stopping big business from profiting at the expense of people.
7. Fair Trade is the future
As dramatic as the growth in success of Fair Trade is, this only representations a fraction of world trade. This needs to continue.
If enough people want a world in which everything we buy is fairly traded, this can be the future. Until then, companies and consumers need to get behind the Fair Trade message and spread the word.
We expect more workers, manufacturers, farmers and craftsmen from developing countries to receive a fair wage for their work. The more frequently Fair Trade goods appear in our high streets and supermarkets, the sooner this can happen.
Start buying Fair Trade today – and be part of the impact it will make on the future.