“Fair Trade is a movement of people, farmers, consumers, and businesses that aims at changing the terms of trade so that they become more dignified, more just and more equitable.” ~ Erin Gorman, CEO, Divine Chocolate, USA
You hear a lot about the importance of voting with your dollar, but how much does every purchase actually matter? A lot! Every fresh cup of coffee or bite of chocolate can help create a more socially, economically, and environmentally just planet. But what does Fair Trade really 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.”
Small-scale farmers produce 70% of the world’s food. Yet the global food system poses many obstacles to those who seek to earn a fair livelihood. Ever-increasing corporate consolidation means struggles at every step, from access to seeds and land to unfair competition when they bring those crops to market.
Fair trade labeling is a response to consumer demand for more ethically produced goods – yet few consumers really understand what the fair trade movement actually entails. In addition to social responsibility, the label also includes environmental and economic standards. Small-scale farmers around the world are organizing themselves into cooperatives and partnering with ethically minded businesses to build fair supply chains. Together they commit to a series of values that put justice and sustainable development at the heart of trading practices.
Companies like Dr. Bronner’s have committed to these principles through all their supply chains—as well as supporting fair policies for their workers at home and broader policy solutions to the challenges they see in the world. In short, they’ve taken their commitment to fair trade and extended those values to all their business dealings.
Further, research continues to show that small-scale farmers are our best chance at feeding the world and combatting climate change. Unlike large-scale industrial farms, small-scale, organic farmers tending to their plots can actually reduce carbon emissions through healthy soil that sequesters carbon and many other benefits. Through fair trade policies, we can support these producers to stay on their land and thrive.
Harsh working conditions on farms and in factories, unfair labor practices, environmental degradation, and worker oppression are still commonplace as fair trade goods only make up roughly 1% of the market. When you choose products from dedicated fair trade brands, you vote for the future, and the health and prosperity of people and planet.
At its core, fair trade advocates for worker’s rights, economic and community development, and environmentally friendly production methods, creating opportunities for families and their local communities.
The products you use, the food you eat, and the clothing you wear are often grown, produced, packaged, and transported by people you have never met in places you have 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? Who do your purchases support, small-scale farmers, or corporations only in it for profit?
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Behind every product is the story of a real person – perhaps even a child. According to UNICEF, 150 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 make your products.
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Unjust trade policies impact people all around the world, and can set up barriers to success for the small-scale producers fair traders seek to benefit. You now know that every dollar you spend is a vote, so make it count! Choosing Fair Trade over conventional items greatly affects those along the production line, becoming a powerful tool for you, the consumer, to take advantage of.
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