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What Is Fair Trade?

Perhaps you’ve seen this Fair Trade Certified symbol on some products in a local or online store.  Do you know what it means? 

Until last weekend, I didn’t pay much attention to this whole idea of fair trade products.  The only fair trade product that I was aware of was coffee, and the only thing I really understood about fair trade coffee was that it’s more expensive than regular coffee.  Sad, I know.  I was the proverbial ostrich with my head firmly planted in the sand.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I recently attended a workshop entitled Radical Justice for Today.  At that workshop I learned about the importance of fair trade practices.  I pledged never again to bury my head in the sand as a consumer.  My spending choices speak volumes, and I want to be sure that what my spending choices say is in harmony with my Christian values.

That is why today, I want to explain a little about fair trade in case there are others who are not aware of what it means.  Here are three very important benefits of fair trade products:

1.  Guaranteed minimum price which, though they vary by companies, reward the farmers’ hard work by giving them a decent living wage after covering the cost of production. (Many times this minimum price is DOUBLE the amount that farmers are typically paid by the buyers for the large corporations that bring us most of our food choices in our supermarkets.) 

2.  Fair treatment of workers include safe working conditions, no child laborers, freedom to organize, and having a say in the workings of the farm co-operative where they work.   

3.  Environmentally sustainable practices  protect the farm land and the quality of the food that is produced on it.

Sadly, these benefits are not readily extended to most farmers of exported products.  Child labor, slave labor, extremely low wages, exposure to harmful pesticides and dangerous working conditions are more the norm than the exception. 

The realization that each time I chose to buy an imported product (coffee, tea, chocolate, wine, sugar, etc.) that did not bear this Fair Trade Certified symbol, I was giving our money to businesses who exploit other human beings to increase their profits was enough to make me feel sick inside.   

I’ve recently done a lot more reading on this subject of fair trade, and I encourage you to learn more about it, too.  It is not a perfect system, but for now, this fair trade symbol is our best assurance that the people who grow and harvest the products we want are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

I encourage you to do some investigating concerning the products you are buying.  Is everyone who had a part in your purchase being treated in a fair and humane manner?  If not, it’s time we put our money to work to bring about the changes we want to see in the world.

(The above information about fair trade was gleaned from the book Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices which I would highly recommend.)

I would love to hear about your thoughts on Fair Trade!


6 thoughts on “What Is Fair Trade?

  1. Love this, Elaine! Can I reference you in my blog-world?

    1. Of course you can, Bethany! The more we get the information out there, the more change we will see.

  2. We have been working to switch our coffee and chocolate choices along with bananas and other products that bear the Fair Trade emblem. Upon putting frugal shopping practices into action, I was delighted to find that you can easily find Fair Trade products that are reasonably priced. Sam’s Club, Newman’s Own, and Green Mountain brands are all within ONE dollar of the non-fair trade brands of coffee! One dollar is not a lot to add to the coffee budget considering the assurance that no small children were enslaved to harvest the beans.

    Thank you for posting about this subject matter. We all need to take action whenever possible to ensure justice for All.

    1. Thank you for those practical suggestions, Ann. If we as consumers demand more fair trade products, we will certainly see more of them in stores.

  3. My coffee and chocolate are always Fair Trade. Bananas too when I buy them. Not only is it the right thing to do I think the quality is better

  4. […] means we have of speaking out against child labor in the cocoa industry is to demand and to buy fair trade chocolates.  Unfortunately, fair trade chocolates are more expensive than other chocolates, and […]

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