SPONSORED BY Dr. Bronner’s
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“Before you finished eating your breakfast, you’ve already depended on more than half the world.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
You hear a lot about the importance of voting with your dollar, but how much does each purchase actually matter? A lot! Every cup of coffee and bite of chocolate helps create a more socially, economically, and environmentally just planet. That’s why certifications like Fair Trade are so important – they give consumers an easier way to create an equitable society. But what does Fair Trade actually mean? It’s more than just fair wages for farmers. As David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer at Dr. Bronner’s states, “Fair Trade isn’t just about coffee and cacao, it’s about everything.”
When you go to the store, products are just – there, with little hint of their origin or the number of hands or resources used to create what’s on the shelf. Have you ever stopped to think about how that product was made, who made it, and under what conditions? If all of those stories were presented alongside the product, you may find out about the farmer who cultivated the land, or the workers who made the goods in their communities, or the natural resources needed to create the item. If all of this was visible, you would better understand the greater impact that a single product has on people, communities, and the planet. The mission of organizations like our partner today, Fair World Project is to educate and advocate for a just global economy where people are treated fairly and with dignity; the environment is respected and nourished; and commerce fosters sustainable livelihoods and communities in a global society based on cooperation and solidarity. What a beautiful vision!
Whenever you purchase a product, you are perpetuating the labor practices used to make it. Check out this brief video about the production of tomatoes made by the LA Times to get a sense of what unfair labor practices can look like. This is one reason a serious shift in demand for ethical products is a must for a just future. This is why fair trade certifications are so important. As Fair Trade Campaigns explains, “When you choose to purchase Fair Trade products, you are endorsing an economic system that provides opportunities for international farmers, artisans and workers to lift themselves out of poverty.”
Rather than looking at production as a piecemeal operation, Fair Trade looks at trade holistically and asks how a product can be made and sold to benefit everyone. Smallholder farmers produce 70% of the world’s food. Yet the global food system poses many obstacles to those who seek to earn a sustainable livelihood. At its core, Fair Trade advocates for workers like these smallholder farmers. Fair Trade supports workers’ rights, economic and community development, and environmentally friendly production methods.
Because you often can’t meet the people who made your product in the store, third-party certification and Fair Trade membership labels let you match your values with your purchases. Labels such as Fair for Life, Fairtrade America, Fair Trade USA, World Fair Trade Organization, and Fair Trade Federation, verify that a product was made following certain standards. Standards vary from label to label, but include fair and transparent prices for farmers, wages for workers, and premiums to support organic production and community development.
Some companies follow these standards for just a few products, while others follow these principles for all their products and in their business practices. The latter may be part of membership organizations like the Fair Trade Federation or the World Fair Trade Organization. Companies like today’s partner, Dr. Bronner’s, have made these commitments, supporting the organizing efforts of small-scale farmers around the world and working to build fair supply chains.
If more consumers (like you!) become informed, the Fair Trade share of market will grow. And soon poor production standards will be transformed into sustainable practices that support people and planet.
The goods you use, the food you eat, and the clothing you wear are often grown, produced, packaged, and transported by people you’ve never met in places you’ve never been. You may have a great relationship with the barista at your favorite coffee shop, but what about the farmers who grew and harvested the coffee beans? We rarely stop to consider who these purchases are actually supporting – producers like smallholder farmers, craftspeople or multinational corporations. It is also important to understand a company’s commitment to fair trade practices across their entire supply chain and operations, like our partner Dr. Bronner’s.
Fair Trade often doesn’t connect the people buying with the people growing and making the goods particularly when the goods are coming from countries that are far away. To put a face to the people and companies working hard for Fair Trade, watch this video here.
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Behind every product is the story of a real person – perhaps even a child. According to UNICEF, 168 million children are engaged in child labor around the world, with 60% working in agriculture and more often than not, under slave conditions. The fair trade movement seeks to reveal the impact of our purchases and choices on one another. Here’s a chance for you to get connected with the people who grow and produce your products.
“When you see an icon of a farmer, odds are that it depicts a man. But women are at the heart of our food and farming systems. Seed saving, tending family plots, picking, processing and preparing – women touch every aspect of our food,” says Dana Geffner, Executive Director of Fair World Project.
Next, watch “Journey to Serendipol”, which documents the development of Dr. Bronner’s fair trade sister company, Serendipol, in Sri Lanka.
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Each meal we eat casts a vote for the kind of food system we want to support.
Smallholder farmers are the backbone of our food system, growing 70% of the world’s food. Yet the system is stacked against them, too often favoring mega corporations and industrial agriculture.
When you buy products on your campus, have you ever considered if they are Fair Trade certified? Fair Trade Campaigns has an entire program dedicated to making your campus a Fair Trade campus.
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