Fair Trade is more than a clever catch phrase. It’s a commitment to provide the best quality product for the best price without sacrificing human dignity. The principles of fair trade support transparency, non-discrimination, fair prices, and practices that provide opportunity to disadvantaged producers. When we see a product with a fairly traded label we can assume it was produced with safe labor, just wages, and sustainable practices.
None of us want to imagine a world in which slavery in any form still exists. At the same time, we are constantly looking for the best prices on food, clothing and other goods, especially in these tough economic times. We don’t always give ample consideration to where each product came from, how it was produced, if the workers involved are treated with dignity, etc. Although Fair Trade is not perfect, these organizations and those who support them are making huge strides to end exploitation of workers and employ better production practices.
While the principles of Fair Trade are certainly noble, are they reasonable? Considering all that fair trade seems to include, does the cost of a fairly traded product compare? We can expect that not exploiting the workers could raise the final price of the product. What is not well-known is that fair trade involves application, certification and renewal fees, similar to the expenses incurred with organic certification, which will surely affect the final price of the product. The people who do the 3rd party certification deserve to be paid as well.
What does it take to get a banana from South America to Salem? Is it conceivable that every human being involved in the transaction from farm to store is ensured a standard of living, education and health care that simply satisfies basic human needs? On the other hand, without some fair trade assurance we risk supporting a business that is willing to exploit it’s workers in the name of profit. Are we okay with that?
There are a number of fair trade certifiers these days. Some are more reputable than others and all have differing standards. Fair Trade International, Fair Trade Federation, IMO-Fair for Life, transfairusa, and DFT are just a few. Type in ‘fair trade certification agencies’ into your browser for a complete listing.
Most cheap food is cheap because labor is exploited or because production practices are inferior. We could resolve to buy locally. And of course, we should buy locally whenever possible. However, we can’t grow that banana in Oregon. So what do we do? We must look at the world food supply and acknowledge that for non-local food to be really inexpensive and remain that inexpensive, someone, somewhere in the farm-to-market chain is getting less than their “fair” share.
Many fairly traded products are also certified organic because the customer base is informed and cares about how something is produced. In addition, these producers invest in products they believe are superior and deserving of the additional price. In other words, and in real practice, the return on investment is higher because organic products normally yield better flavor and better nutrition. It’s a no-brainer. Fair Trade farmers are getting attention because their product is better.
What it comes down to is that we have our say with our wallets when we choose to buy Fair Trade products. It’s one of the two ways we get to stand up for what we believe in—with our wallets and with our feet.
And happily, at LifeSource you are free to exercise both methods at the same time. Shopping for groceries and household products that are brought to market in a manner that recognizes the human being on the production end of a product and our true interconnectedness … such a manner of living is really more than talking the talk. Supporting Fair Trade is walking the walk.
Together when we spend our food dollars on food that’s coming out of Fair Trade practices, we are not only choosing better food, we are also choosing to shape a better world … a Fair World.