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Fair trade is all about fairness and justice. Its impact is to raise awareness about environmental health and our duty towards it.
Fair trade strengthens the message of empowering individuals, of transparency and accountability, of producing quality hand crafted products, of eradicating poverty, child labor, and and of providing good working conditions to workers.
Today, we’re going to discuss the basic principles of fair trade and learn more about what it really is and its impacts on both commerce and the people it supports.
What’s the vision behind it, and does it work to uplift marginalized communities around the globe?
The best definition of Fairtrade:
Fair trade is an arrangement designed to help producers in poor countries achieve sustainable and equitable trade relationships.
It's composed of member groups that work directly with poor farmers and artists who use traditional methods of skill and techniques to produce organic crops and unique hand crafted items from hand carved children's toys, to large, intricate Haitian metal wall art.
This arrangement allows for cultural longevity and fair wages to impoverished producers. When a family is allowed a fair and reasonable wage, the effects are substantial.
Fair wages allow families to send their children to school instead of to a factory where large industries use child labor.
Fair trade also means ensuring healthy and safe working conditions. It encourages transparency and relationships based on mutual respect.
The Fair Trade movement also aims to minimize the negative impacts from mega-industries, like mass agriculture and clothing, on both humanity and our environment.
Vision of the Fair Trade movement:
In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler started to import needle crafts from financially poor communities in South America. This marked the start of the Fair trade movement. Formally, it began during the late 1950s in the USA as well as Europe.
The vision of Fair trade is to do justice. Justice for the growers, producers, and the highly skilled artisans. Fair trade improves the lives of the impoverished, and reduces the exploitation of workers in the developing countries.
Today Fairtrade America in the US and Fairtrade Foundation in the UK, along with many others groups, operate to promote and certify Fair trade products. Presently, there are over 30,000 certified products on display in more than 120 countries of the world, and growing as consumers are seeking out unique items for gift giving and products that are sustainable. Even recently, there’s been a surge in demand for Fair trade products around the globe.
The misconception that certified products are more expensive is also fading. Products of certain brands, either Fair trade certified or not, are expensive while others aren’t.
However, the hard work that goes into crafting these products or by implementing sustainable organic farming practices often more than justifies a slight increase in the end price.
How Does It Help Farmers and Workers?
Fair trade advocates better prices, healthy working conditions, and mutual respect while trading. About 2 million farmers and artisans are associated with Fair trade organizations. And the fair wages they receive help them to improve their living conditions. Fair trade saves them from forced labor.
The increased wages these producers and artisans receive enable them to upgrade their farming or crafting equipment along with availing a proper protection system for themselves while working. Fair trade prevents exploitation and provides opportunities for a better future.
The 10 Basic Principles of Fair Trade:
Fair trade has a wide range of guidelines but according to World Fairtrade Organization (WFTO), there are 10 basic principles. Each certified organization must adhere to these principles on a daily basis.
1. Opportunities for Marginalized Skilled Communities:
All over the world, there are communities with skills but no opportunities except through exploitation. The fast, unethical fashion and mass-producing industries exploit skilled workers.
Millions of workers are exploited daily in industries like fashion and agriculture. They work over the legal hours limit in order to produce cheaper clothing and food products for the larger economies.
Yet they themselves can’t afford to live a decent life. These impoverished workers are underpaid and forced to work in unhealthy and unsafe environments. In some factories, women face harassment, while in others, they faint due to high temperatures and lack of proper ventilation.
WFTO aims to reduce poverty by introducing fair methods of trading. This organization tries to uplift disadvantaged individual artisans or communities while working together.
Through different initiatives, these workers and artisans are helped in generating decent incomes and are lifted to be independent, self-sufficient businesses.
2. Accountability and Transparency:
For a trade to remain fair and just, accountability and transparency are the two fundamental pillars. They’re important because an organization can’t stand for long without them.
That’s why WTFO emphasizes transparency while trading through accountability. The organization itself is transparent and accountable to every stakeholder. It also protects its commercial information from being misused.
Moreover, there are multiple ways through which the organization engages its participants and producers.
They’re given appropriate positions at the decision-making table where they can present their suggestions during policy-making. Relevant information is forwarded to all participants so they can act accordingly.
Stakeholders can communicate their thoughts to the organization through proper channels. It helps to improve transparency and accountability.
3. Specific Fair Trade Principles:
The organization seeks to enable marginalized communities to live decent lives, along with producing eco-friendly products. The organization is not established to gain profits.
This organization assures producers or workers are paid fair wages and on time. It grows ties based on mutual respect where the suppliers are bound to deliver products within an agreed time-frame and meeting a high quality standard.
Furthermore, upon request, member producers and artisans are paid 50% in advance without any interest (in case of handicrafts).
In the case of food products, if suppliers request pre-payment, a reasonable amount of interest will be applied due to the risks of weather and crop failure.
If buyers need to reject or cancel an order, they consult with suppliers. If there’s no fault of suppliers, buyers have to compensate them for the work already done. Similarly, if there’s a delay in the delivery or if the quality is inferior, buyers are compensated fairly.
Most of these trade relations are long-term, based on trust and mutual respect. It helps in the promotion and growth of Fair trade along with maintaining high quality crops and products. With the protection offered by the Fair Trade principles, producers can offer a diverse range of products increasing their sales and incomes.
All Fair trade organizations cooperate and engage in healthy competition to avoid duplication and to keep producing unique designs. Moreover, traditional skills, identity, and indigenous designs are promoted and appreciated by the Fair trade movement.
4. Fair Payment:
Fair payment refers to fair prices, wages, and local living wages. Fair trade organizations must negotiate and pay the mutually agreed price for a particular product or service. It’s a basic principle that they’ll pay the producers fairly, taking into consideration the sustainability of the market.
Theses organizations believe in the equality of men and women. Thus, no organization will discriminate between the pay of a male and a female worker.
- Fair Prices:
Fair prices mean that everyone gains profit. These prices are an agreed amount based upon amount what both the producers and the fair trade organizations that promote them have decided.
Also, the prices are set in an intimidation-free negotiation.
- Fair wages:
It refers to a wage that’s suitable for a particular product or service. In short, it means to be just and fair.
- Local Living wages:
The standard working week is 48 hours. It refers to wages under which a person and his/her family can lead a decent life. To afford the essentials of life like food, clothes, shelter, and healthcare, etc.
5. No Child Labor and Forced Labor:
The fifth basic principle of Fair trade is to reduce and prevent child labor as well as forced labor. The organization ensures that no child is working under the organization or its associates. All principles are strictly following the UN convention on the rights of the child.
Fair trade organizations look deep into suppliers’ profiles to ensure that they’re not involved in child and forced labor.
Further, every supplier is thoroughly checked making sure that no one in the supply chain is associated with child labor.
Every child who’s learning a cultural craft or skill is disclosed and monitored. Fair Trade organizations ensure that there are no negative impacts of any activity on the child’s health and education.
Fair trade organizations try to contribute as much as they can to uplift society and upgrade the living standards of the workers and their families.
6. Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association:
Fair trade organizations don’t discriminate on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity, language, or any other factor. Fair trade means equal opportunities for men and women, Muslims and Christians, whites and blacks, and all other genders, religions, and races.
It supports and promotes women’s economic empowerment and the Right of Association. According to WFTO, 54% of the senior roles are held by women.
Women possess the same employment status, rights, and benefits as men. Moreover, women can be active members or take the lead of an organization without any discriminatory behavior, if they’re competent enough.
Their special health needs are also taken into consideration if they’re pregnant or breastfeeding mothers. WFTO and all other Fair trade organizations don’t discriminate against either gender and provides equal opportunities and resources to both.
The Fair Trade organizations believe in connections and support groups. Farmers and workers are allowed to join or refuse any trade union.
These organizations also help farmers and workers to stand tall before any kind of exploitation or intimidation, thus allowing formerly impoverished and exploited workers to work freely on their terms and receive the wages they deserve.
7. Ensure Healthy Working Environment:
Ensuring a healthy working environment is one of the basic principles of Fair trade. Farmers and workers work in a healthy environment with safety measures under Fair trade organizations. They work in accordance with local, national, and International Labor Organization’s laws.
The Fair Trade organizations thoroughly research all of the suppliers and only work with producers who are producing through socially responsible ways.
Fair trade organizations only work with suppliers who provide good working conditions and who do not practice child or forced labor.
These organizations work to raise awareness about the importance of workers’ health and good working conditions.
If the workers aren’t healthy, they won’t be able to reach their full potential, consequently affecting the quality and value of the product.
8. Providing capacity building:
Fair trade is concerned about marginalized communities. It constantly takes initiatives to maximize its positive impacts on the society and the environment.
Many organizations help independent artists and small skilled communities to improve their overall performance, increase production abilities, and access international and Fair trade markets. Their capacities are developed to support other impoverished groups.
Thus, Fair trade consumers play a vital role in the capacity building and growth of small producers.
9. Promoting Fair Trade:
All Fair trade organizations promote only Fair trade products. They feel that they must raise awareness among the masses about everything they consume.
The negative impacts of mega industries and unfair trade on individual consumers and the overall environment are tremendous and dangerous.
There’s exploitation, bad working conditions, child labor, and low-quality products and services. Moreover, people buy and dispose of these low-quality, cheap products more often, adding tons of wastes to the environment each day.
That’s why it’s necessary to highlight the importance of Fair trade and how it can help restore the environment’s health while at the same time, eradicating poverty.
10. Respect for the Environment:
It’s a basic fair trade principle, and mentioned throughout this article, that fair trade incorporates environmental protection by its very nature.
Unlike mega industries that lend themselves to mass production, fair trade aims to maximize its positive impacts on the environment.
Fair trade principles allow for the production of organic, agricultural products and hand made items without the harmful effects of large amounts of industrial waste in the pursuit of maximum profit, at any cost.
Our natural environment with its natural balance is extremely precious, valuable, and vital for our survival.
It’s been some time that scientists are warning us about climate change and its potentially negative effects on the planet.
But these warnings are often ignored by global organizations, governments and corporations.
In this regard, fair trade is taking decisive measures. Organizations associated with Fair Trade are minimizing their energy consumption and, when available, prefer to use renewable resources for production.
Further, these producers utilize raw materials rather than synthetic, which have a larger, negative environmental impact.
Fair trade agricultural producers implement organic, natural insect control measures as much as possible.
Moreover, these fair trade members use material that can be easily recycled or degraded for packaging materials or other such by-products.
So, the principles of Fair Trade as covered here, act as a framework to ensure a win-win situation for all parties involved; the producers now receive a fair and livable wage, the environment suffers no harm, and the end consumer has the selection of some of the most organic, sustainably raised farm products available through the beauty of numerous Fair Trade organizations.
These principles of Fair Trade also act as a way to keep the organizations themselves on track assuring fair and equitable trade in a softer approach to our planet.
We hope to be doing our part here at Bonsai and Bear by making available many beautiful, hand crafted Fair Trade items to our shoppers.
The next time you have a special occasion, need that perfect unique gift, or just want something outside of the big box store inventory, why not think Fair Trade?