Friday, May 8, 2009

Celebrate Fair Trade Day

adapted from the archives over at The Purloined Letter:




Tomorrow is World Fair Trade Day, an annual global celebration. My family celebrates by purchasing and consuming wonderful Fair Trade Certified rice, wine, flowers, coffee, and chocolate.

Around the second Saturday of May every year, fair trade organizations, stores, consumers, and supporters based in 70 countries campaign for justice in trade and host events promoting fair trade. The days and weeks around surrounding the special day offer the opportunity for people worldwide to help to spread the word about fair trade. People host events such as fair trade breakfasts and talks, house parties and music concerts, photo exhibitions and crafts sales, fair trade soccer games, etc.

Others use World Fair Trade Day to launch longer-term initiatives. In the United States, some fair traders will launch campaigns in their communities to bring fair trade to their schools--through fundraisers using fair trade chocolate, buying fair trade uniforms, or playing sports with fair trade soccer and volleyballs. Others will use WFTD as an opportunity to open new fair trade retail locations or inaugurate efforts to make their municipality a Fair Trade Town.

Fair trade aims to change the economic and social structures of our world, and empowers marginalized people to avoid or escape the poverty trap. If adults are paid a fair price for their work, their children are able to go to school and live a healthy and full life, rather than having to work. Fair trade not only benefits adults; it helps their children, too.

In 2004, 246 million children aged between five and seventeen were child workers, 73 million working children were less than 10 years old, 180 million worked in extremely dangerous conditions and 6.4 million children were trapped in slavery, trafficking, debt bondage, prostitution, pornography and other illicit activities.

Governmental programs to stop child labor and bring children back to school are having some impact on addressing these issues. But these cannot be effective without addressing the root cause of child labor: poverty.

The unfair terms of trade for raw materials, crippling import tariffs in industrial countries, and heavily subsidized goods from industrial countries are all practices that exclude and marginalize millions of people in the rural South. Fair trade makes a concrete contribution to the reduction of poverty and therefore has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence of child labor.


What Is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade means that consumers have the power to improve lives by supporting:
• fair wages in a local context
• environmental stewardship
• equal opportunities and democratic decision-making
• long term trade partnerships
• cultural connections

According to the International Fair Trade Association, “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers, especially in the South. Fair Trade organizations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”

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Fair Trade Certified

The Fair Trade Certified label is the only independent, third-party consumer guarantee that companies have complied with strict economic, social and environmental criteria for particular products, thereby creating a more equitable and sustainable trade system for producers.

The principal criteria of Fair Trade certification are:

* Direct trade with farmer organizations, bypassing unnecessary middlemen
* Fair prices for farmers, and decent working and living conditions for workers
* Free association of workers and farmers, with structures for democratic decision-making
* Access to pre-financing, and additional premiums for community and business development
* Sustainable agricultural and farm management practices, including restricted use of agrochemicals and no GMOs

When consumers see a product with the Fair Trade Certified label, they are guaranteed that farmers received a fair price and all of the other benefits of the Fair Trade system. To date, sales of Fair Trade Certified products have supplied nearly $80 million in above-market revenue to millions of farmers, workers and their families in over 50 developing countries worldwide.

Be informed when buying products. By buying fair trade, you ensure that the artisans and farmers that make your food, clothing, and other goods are involved in a commercial exchange that is not exploitative. If you buy non-fair trade products, you may unknowingly be buying something made in unfair conditions or supporting the deterioration of the environment.

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You can find out more information about Fair Trade and about World Fair Trade Day at Wikipedia, Fair Trade Resource Network, TransFair, and Global Exchange.

4 comments:

JessTrev said...

Thanks, Hannah! This is perfect - after the H Montana banana conversation, my cousin had a discussion with someone who was doubting the veracity of Fair Trade claims. I will send her this link. If you (or any readers) have heard of this claim - that purported financial benefits of Fair Trade labeling aren't getting to the farmers - and know of research or stats to rebut that argument, I'm all ears.

The Tell-Tale Heart said...

I agree. This is a terrific marriage of posts.

I enjoyed the book Confessions of an Eco Sinner by Fred Pearce. Short focused chapters make for good before bed reading.

While he ends up supporting the free trade system (and finds no evidence that anyone in the enterprise is skimming from the fair-trade premiums), Pearce points out its limitations.

After reading it, I continue to seek out fair trade chocolate and coffee and don't let my purchases make me feel eco-holy.

One positive point I'll pass on is that dark chocolate passes on more profit to growers than milk chocolate. (As if we needed another reason to enjoy it.)

JessTrev said...

Thanks, Tell-Tale Heart (um, the Poe references? they're multiplyin') -- I will check out Pearce's book, it sounds most interesting and anything that can poke a hole in eco-holiness without diminishing your belief in the effort sounds worthwhile.

Green Bean said...

I love being able to choose Fair Trade. It is like having my cake and eating it too - only it's made with fair trade chocolate and sugar.

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