If you know me, then you probably know that I am a 22-year old millennial writing this from UC Santa Cruz. Go Slugs! More importantly though, I write this because the environment will drastically change over the course of my lifetime. We need to take action. One of the solutions is through fair trade. You might be wondering what it is. In this article, What is Fair Trade Practice? 10 Reasons You Should Care, I answer just that question.
Given what this blog is about, why am I writing about this? If you enjoy the outdoors, then you should support fair trade. Hiking pants, rain jackets, boots, tents, trekking poles, kayaks, and all sorts of other outdoor gear all get their components from somewhere. When you know how they are assembled, you make a commitment to a better world. Companies like REI and Patagonia strive to deliver high quality products and engage in sustainable business practices. You can buy from them and others with a peaceful conscious.
Anyway, let’s get started.
What Exactly is Fair Trade?
In essence, fair trade is about helping exporters in developing countries achieve better trading conditions. The coffee you drink at Starbucks, the chocolate you eat on Valentine’s Day, the sugar you taste in your soda, and the apple you crunch on all come from somewhere. Each of those all come from a source.
Current trade practices result in an uneven distribution of wealth. Under the current paradigm, free trade, it is anybody’s game if they have the power. Such a system delivers low cost products to consumers, but only through the externalization of costs. Economists say free trade is the best system since it encourages companies to cut down costs, but they only shift costs. It results in environmental degradation, atrocious working conditions, and wealthy inequality, making the world economy unsustainable.
Fair trade presents an alternative. It refuses to compromise between high quality products and poor working conditions. It wants good working conditions and good goods. You get excellent products and a happy environment. It is about buying at a fair price to promote sustainable development.
What follows next is what fair trade means for you in practice and why you should support it.
1. This Movement Improves Working Conditions
Under free trade, companies drive down wages to out compete other companies, so they can have more profit. Fair trade certified products, though, result in no child labor or forced labor. Workers can freely associate and receive sustainable wages. When farmers or day laborers arrive to work, they are not subject to arbitrary discipline or crack downs. They are treated like human beings. Companies who sign onto this program are subject to stringent standards to maintain an equitable workplace.
2. It Gives More Purchasing Power to Neglected Producers
When you buy goods from these producers, you pay a reasonable price. As a result, workers get more money in their pockets. What do they then do with this money? They can grow their businesses, buy school supplies for their children, afford more nutritious food, and repair their homes. They buy more, energizing their local economy. When you pay a little extra for your coffee, it goes a long way for a farmer in Colombia.
3. Fair Trade Certified Products are High Quality
Because of the stringent control standards of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), you enjoy a higher quality product. That means no genetically modified ingredients, limited fertilizers, pesticides, and proper waste management.
4. You Live Your Values
At UC Santa Cruz, the student body is quite liberal. They tell others their opinion in protests and sign onto online petitions. All of that is good, but then they go buy products off Amazon because of its convenience. When you buy fair trade certified products though, you can put your trust in them. Everything we consume has an impact on the world around us. If you want organic farming, fair trade offers that. If you want equitable working conditions, fair trade delivers. If you want to help the developing world, fair trade provides a way.
5. You Help the Environment
Environmental degradation is here. Poor farming practices reduce soil quality and careless waste management pollutes the ocean. With fair trade practices though, you can trust that the businesses used sustainable practices. There is no externalization of cost that damages the environment. Fair trade certified companies do not dump into the ocean or clear cut trees. They are sustainable.
6. Fair Trade License Fees Raise Producers’ Standards of Living
The funds from fair trade certification go towards scholarships, social, economic, and environmental development projects. Fair Trade Certified does not pocket all the cash they make from their work. They use some of their money to help impoverished people. The projects they fund really make a difference, uplifting communities and transforming lives. The dollar you spend on fair trade products goes quite a long way to making a difference in the lives of these people.
7. You Vote with Your Dollar
Tomorrow is the 2018 midterm elections in the US, so it is appropriate to be talking about voting. I am about to turn in my ballot today and wear my “I Voted” sticker. It makes me feel proud. At the same time though, we often do not think about where our dollars go. What you buy and do not buy casts a vote for what you want in the world. The market responds by rewarding those who end up generating a lot of consumer demand and punishing those who fail to respond.
When you buy something, you cast a vote for that product. The company responds by making more of it and expanding the practices they used to make it.
You may not get a cool sticker when you buy fair trade certified, but you cast your vote for the world you want.
8. Fair Trade Reduces the Grip of Big Corporations
Under big corporations, small farmers and producers have to meet their demands or else they will not get any business. They have to be a part of their system even if it is detrimental in the long run.
Fair trade comes in as an alternative. It buys directly from the producers, cutting out the middleman and delivering directly to you. Big corporations have only one interest at heart, the demands of their shareholders. If someone in a developing country gets hurt, it is fine so long as it enriches the bottom line.
9. You Invest in Developing Communities
This past Summer, I studied abroad in Ghana and I was in Kenya and South Africa before that one. When I met with farmers, locals, and craftsmen, it only became clear to me later that they want investors, equal partners to help them grow and develop. When someone is an investor in another, they want to see them succeed. With the organization, Fair Trade Certified, that is just what they do. They treat small producers as equal partners. Their success is the organization’s success.
10. Empower Women and Girls
There are a lot of gender disparities in the world, but why should you even care? Men are faring just as hard as women. Let me tell you that, when women succeed, we all succeed. Who do you think wipes your bottom? It is your Mom. Companies underpay women because they can get away with it. If you support women, then you support mothers, the primary caregivers to children who are the future of the world.
When women are treated better through fair trade certified products, the money is more likely to be reinvested into the community.
Final Thoughts to Send You on Your Way
Well, you should be all set to go. You know what fair trade is. That is good for you. Before you go though, I ask that you go a little further. I would like you to check out my previous article, The Top 10 Environmental Groups, Charities, and Organizations for Donations. I am going to be straight with you. The environment needs our help. Freak hurricanes obliterate communities. Increased temperatures ruin crops. Many wildlife species face extinction. Your money can go a long way. Just like fair trade products, donations cast a vote for what you want in the world.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please remember to share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!