Fair trade is an international alternative trading system designed to empower disadvantaged farmers, artisans, and labourers. The movement began 50 years ago when international aid organizations worked to help farmers and labourers in Africa break free from oppressive trading practices. These inequitable trading practices still exist today.
Farmers and artisans in developing countries rely on intermediaries for market information and trade. These middlemen usually pay less than market price and keep the producers trapped in a cycle of poverty. Small-scale farmers cant afford to produce the crop. They cant afford the overhead or their financings interest rates. They abandon their farms, or, in the case of some cocoa producers, they employ unpaid workers, often children.
Through fair trade, farmers and artisans deal directly with members of fair trade organizations, bypassing the middleman and receiving a fair and sustainable wage for their work. According to the Fair Trade Federation, the goal of a member organization is to benefit the artisans they work with, not maximize profits. By reducing the number of middlemen and minimizing overhead costs, FTOs (fair trade organizations) return up to 40 percent of the retail price of an item to the producer. Producers receive a fair wage for their product, children are not exploited, and long-term relationships are encouraged to provide continuity in trading. Fair trade considers the enduring well-being of the person behind the product.
In Canada, the Fair Trade Certified logo is managed by TransFair Canada, a nonprofit organization that belongs to the international Fairtrade Labeling Organization (FLO). Use of the logo comes with very strict rules and terms, to which all members are bound by contract.
The Canadian Fair Trade Certified logo is applied to product-specific items only, meaning that the product, not the company, is certified as fair trade. On the other hand, the Fair Trade Federation logo identifies the company as a certified member. Two of the largest members in the US are Ten Thousand Villages and SERRV International.
The Fair Trade Federation and FLO monitor their producers and members. They ensure that the playing field of trade is level and fair. For the consumer, these logos assure that the goods are produced in environmentally responsible conditions and that the cultures and communities of the worker are respected and sustained.
Yes. According to the Fair Trade Federation, sales for Ten Thousand Villages in the US and Canada between 1985 and 1998 increased by nearly $15 million, creating over 12,000 full-time jobs for artisans and farmers.
As more consumers use their purchasing power for social justice, large corporations consider the fair trade alternative. Currently, there are 117 Canadian fair trade licensees, and 44 source countries are registered with the FLO. Todays fair trade products include crafts, coffee, tea, chocolate, soaps, cosmetics, sugar, and fruit. Coming soon are wines, nuts, oils, and more.