This post is the first of my Why Series here on the blog. I often write about fair trade, eco-friendly, socially conscious living, but I am not always able to fully address in each of my blog posts WHY I choose to live this way. This series goes into greater detail about my why!
Chances are, you have heard someone mention the term “fair trade” before. But do you know what it actually means and why it’s a good thing? In this post, I’m explaining what exactly fair trade is and why I personally decided to make it a greater priority in my life!
What is Fair Trade?
Fair trade is the buying and selling of goods in a way that is fair to the producers of the goods. This means decent wages and safe working conditions for the people who are making our products and producing our food. I think we can ALL agree that this is a good idea!
In a stricter sense, “Fair Trade” also refers to an official certification that a company has obtained because they engage in fair trade practices. If a company is Fair Trade Certified, you know that they have met certain standards for treating workers well and sourcing their materials responsibly. The most common fair trade certifications are from Fairtrade International, Fair Trade USA, and the World Fair Trade Organization.
Why Should I Purchase Fair Trade?
Unfortunately, fair trade is NOT common practice in our modern economy. The reason you are able to purchase a t-shirt for only $5 at Target is because of UNfair trade practices. Here in the United States, we frequently source products from countries where there aren’t minimum wage laws nor good working conditions, because this means the products are much cheaper to make. Obviously, it is much less expensive to pay someone $0.50 per day than $10/hour. It is also much cheaper to house production facilities in ramshackle buildings with safety problems than to invest millions of dollars renovating those buildings to meet minimum safety standards. And companies are always looking for ways to make things cheaper, because their consumers (that’s us!) are always demanding the lowest price possible.
I firmly believe as one of my core moral values that all humans are equal in terms of their worth. I also believe that all humans should be treated with kindness and respect. All of these moral values are violated when we engage in unfair trade/labor practices.
I choose to buy fair trade products because I want the producers of my products to be able to afford food for themselves and their families. I want them to have pleasant and safe work environments just like I would want for myself. I want them to be paid decently, just as I would want any of my own family members or friends to be paid decently. I want the producers of my belongings and my food to be treated with dignity and respect.
Many people justify buying products that are made in an unfair or unethical manner because they don’t see themselves as personally responsible for unfair labor practices. We deflect personal responsibility by saying that it is the companies who are the bad guys making the choice to oppress workers, not us. But, this really isn’t true. As consumers in a free economy, we have a choice about which products we buy. If we make a conscious decision to purchase a product that was made in an unfair manner and give our money to that company, we directly create more demand for unfair labor practices. We are absolutely at fault for unfair labor practices when we support them with our dollars.
Is It Ever Okay to Not Buy Fair Trade?
I don’t think it’s ever okay to buy products that were traded in an unfair manner, because that means we are contributing to poverty and poor health for other people (I do acknowledge that this is easier said than done!). However, there are definitely times when I think it’s perfectly okay–even good–to buy products that are not Fair Trade Certified. I’ll be discussing this more in my next Why Series post: Why I Buy Ethically Made. Stay tuned!
Where Do I Find Fair Trade Products?
If this blog post has convinced you that buying fair trade is a great thing, you may be wondering where in the heck you can find fair trade products. The most comprehensive resources for finding Fair Trade Certified products are the websites of the organizations that issue these certifications: Fairtrade International, Fair Trade USA, and World Fair Trade Organization.
You can also look for fair trade certified brands where you already shop! Next time you’re at the grocery store, look for Fair Trade Certified logos on the packaging of your coffee or chocolate (they can be found on many other types of food, but coffee and chocolate are some of the most common ones!). Once you have an awareness of fair trade, you will be surprised at the places where you start noticing products that are labeled with fair trade symbols….West Elm, Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and more!
And of course, I highly recommend subscribing to my blog posts! I frequently write about fair trade products or brands I have found. To subscribe, just scroll down to the very bottom of this page, where you can enter your email address and then click “Subscribe.” You can also check out my Ethical Fashion, Ethical Living, and Ethical & Fair Trade Home Goods boards on Pinterest for fair trade brands I have found (please note that not all of the brands on these boards are Fair Trade Certified…again, stay tuned to my next Why Series blog post for more information on ethically made products).
Comment below with your thoughts or questions regarding fair trade. I am excited to continue this conversation!