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Reader Question: What’s Up With Fair Trade?

GPB reader, Jack asks…

Q: I see the term “fair trade” on products. I know this is a good thing but what does fair trade really mean?

A: The term fair trade refers to the movement that helps farmers or producers experience better trading conditions. Essentially, the approach focuses on exports coming from developing countries to developed countries and emphasizes paying the producers more (and more fairly.)

In 1998, four key international organizations, based in Europe, created a widely accepted definition of Fair Trade. A summary of the working definition: Fair trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, disadvantaged producers and workers.

Fair trade is often associated with sustainability and an empathetic viewpoint towards the environment. Often, fair trade advocates also strongly encourage organic farming practices. When you see a product marked “fair trde” this is typically what it refers to.

There is technically no governing body on what exactly is fair trade.

However, there are predominantly two third-party associations that are recognized as expert sources – the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) in North America and the international World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). They have similar criteria.

The criteria for FTF :

Create Opportunities for Economically & Socially Marginalized Producers: Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation & sustainable development.

Develop Transparent & Accountable Relationships: Fair Trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent & respectful.

Build Capacity: Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence.

Promote Fair Trade: Fair Trade encourages an understanding by all participants of their role in world trade.

Pay Promptly & Fairly: Fair Trade empowers producers to set prices within the framework of the true costs of labor time, materials, sustainable growth & related factors.

Support Safe & Empowering Working Conditions: Fair Trade means a safe & healthy working environment free of forced labor.

Ensure the Rights of Children: Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education & play.

Cultivate Environmental Stewardship: Fair Trade seeks to offer current generations the ability to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Respect Cultural Identity: Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive & equitable change.

 Great question, Jack. Keep ’em coming!

Posted by Beth

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Beth is a Health and Wellness expert who believes sustainability goes hand-in-hand with self care. She’s the girl whipping up kombucha cocktails at parties, and extolling the benefits of canning vegetables to anyone who will listen. View all posts by Beth Funari

2 thoughts on “Reader Question: What’s Up With Fair Trade?

  1. Does anyone have any ideas about to apply the principles that govern the Fair Trade industry as they apply to developing countries to carftspersons in the United States? There are many artists working in small shops and studios who don’t have any corporate presence but who would benefit from being able to use the term Fair Trade or a term like it that is specific to the US to assist them in marketing their products. Many of us try to buy local and buy handmade and could use any help we could get.

  2. Hi Pidge – If companies are using local, organic or naturally sourced materials labeling their products as such should help from a marketing perspective. Fortunately, consumers are more and more in tune with where their products come from, and are responding by purchasing items with these “labels.” We urge businesses to use locally sourced parts and ingredients whenever possible – and get the credit by slapping the words on their products! The term “Fair Trade” is tricky as it isn’t governed by just one organization. However, check out http://www.fairtradefederation.org/ for more info on using these words.

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