What is Fair Trade & Why Should I Care?

How much can I get for the least cost to myself?

This attitude, you might call it ‘smart-shopping,’ is one that governs everything from your weekly trip to the supermarket to international trade. It’s intrinsic, ingrained into our shopping habits and our approach to the market. And unfortunately, it has a dark side.

Would you feel like a smart shopper if you purchased products made cheaper because they were made by people working in dangerous or abusive working conditions?

Because they were made by workers who are starving because they were not paid enough to survive on?

Because they were made at the expense of safe environmental practices?

The thing is, most of us wouldn’t freely make these choices. Most of us possess enough empathy and social awareness that we would be horrified to know that our daily purchases contribute to such unethical practices.

Which is exactly why those abuses aren’t openly advertised.

In a market governed by self-preservation, it is easy for wealthy companies to take advantage of people who have little. It is economically beneficial for them to cut corners when they can, even at the cost of basic human rights, of environmental precautions, and of product quality. And the same ideology that encourages these practices, further enables them in the fact that when consumers like you and I purchase products, where those products came from is often the farthest thing from our mind.   

The concept of fair trade begins by asking consumers to change the way they think about shopping. Fair trade encourages us to ask the questions:

How was this product made?

Who made it and how were they treated?

What does this company stand for?

And ultimately, do I support this? 

Thankfully, fair trade as a larger movement has spread and evolved to make it easy for consumers to shop responsibly. Organizations such as Fairtrade International, Fair Trade USA, the World Fair Trade Organization, the Fair Trade Federation, and more set standards for suppliers to adhere to.

Values at the heart of the mission of fair trade are:

  • Empowerment of workers regardless of gender, status, position, or location

  • Fair payment with a livable wage

  • Ensuring no child labor or forced labor

  • Commitment to non-discrimination and gender equity

  • Ensuring healthy and safe working conditions

  • Transparent supply chains

  • Environmental Stewardship

  • High quality products

Purchasing from companies and suppliers who follow fair trade guidelines, like Hands Producing Hope, means you are building up companies who put people and the planet before profit.

The best part? Choosing fair trade doesn’t mean that your wallet has to suffer or that your ‘smart shopper’ skills need be abandoned. It simply means making conscious purchasing decisions that support the livelihoods of makers and growers, enabling a market and a world that is more supportive, generous, and fair. 

July 5, 2018