Fair Trade: What it is, Why it’s Important, and How we do it

Eco-friendly, sustainable, recycled, reusable, zero-waste… there’s an awful lot of ‘green’ buzzwords around these days, and it’s hard to keep it all in mind every time you buy something new. But we like to think Fair Trade products are something special. Working to goals that include social, environmental, and economic factors, Fair Trade considers both the planet AND the people that craft your purchases. Want to learn more? Let’s have a look at some of our most asked questions about Fair Trade.

What is Fair Trade?

We’re sure you’ve heard of Fair Trade when you’re buying coffee and bananas, but it’s so much bigger than that. Fair Trade is a system that ensures a certain set of standards are met when products or ingredients are produced. Providing rights for workers, safer working conditions, and a fair standard of pay, it means that the incredible people who make our products are treated as well as they should be.

There are 10 key principles that must be met for a business to be classed as ‘Fair Trade’. Take a look at them here:

Does Fair Trade really make a difference?

As Fair Trade practices cover a wide range of areas within a business, they’re able to make a difference to workers, their communities, and even the environment. For example, we’re able to see:

Economic benefits:

  • Being paid fairly for their work ensures Fair Trade artisans have a more secure income and can invest in their own futures.
  • Wherever possible we ensure our producers use local, traditionally made materials to keep work within their communities.
  • Research conducted in 2020 found that Fair Trade enterprises were 4 times less likely to go bankrupt, even while 85% reported actively sacrificing financial goals to pursue social or environmental goals!
  • As businesses like us selling Fair Trade products grow, so can our producers’, offering more opportunities for employment and development.

Environmental benefits:

  • Fair Trade businesses must actively work to protect the environment. This can include using traditional skills to create things by hand and cut down on energy and water consumption, using natural dyes rather than potentially harmful chemicals, and taking measures to protect biodiversity.
  • Many of our producers work with recycled materials to create their products, seen in our recycled newspaper range, elephant dung range, recycled leather, recycled glass and metal and cotton rag rugs. Less waste in landfill = a happier planet.
  • Wherever possible our other products also incorporate highly sustainable materials, including mango wood, wool, and lokta shrub.

And social benefits:

  • Workers in Fair Trade businesses are given a voice, a far greater sense of control over their future, and more opportunities to learn and develop their skills.
  • Many of the producer groups we work with have specific goals to train and empower those in marginalised groups, including women and those with home-working needs.
  • Many of our producer groups invest in affordable, quality healthcare and education, not only for their employees and their families, but for their entire communities.

All these benefits are a step in the right direction, but we hope to be able to continue to support and improve these developments where we can in the future.

Do Fair Trade products cost more?

This is a question we see asked often, and it makes sense! While we’re all concerned about the impact we’re having on the planet, it’s understandable that we also worry about our pennies.

Our Fair Trade products are hand crafted by artisans using both traditional and contemporary skills, from high-quality materials. We don’t think it’s ground-breaking to say that this expertise deserves to be recognised with fair payment.

This means that our costs are higher, but you deserve a great price too, so we don’t pass the cost on to you. That’s why you won’t see us promoting big flashy offers and discounts every other week. We’re lucky to have our incredible community of customers that appreciate the quality and value of our gifts and keep coming back to us to find it.

When you consider the quality craftsmanship and beautiful materials, Fair Trade products are no more expensive than comparable high street alternatives. We’re proud to offer an alternative to run-of-the-mill gifts, giving you the chance to find something unique and memorable for your loved ones.

How does Paper High support Fair Trade?

Since our beginnings in 2002, we’ve been proud members of BAFTS (British Association of Fair Trade Shops). Working with the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation), they ensure we stay accountable for adhering to their 10 principles of Fair Trade. Our producers are a network of small family businesses, co-operatives, and charities that we’ve personally built relationships with over the years. Based in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, they all proudly work to Fair Trade standards, and we love to get involved in their community work wherever we can.

We love that we can be completely transparent about exactly who made your products and where, and you can find out more about all of our fantastic producer groups on Our Producers page. To find out more, read Our Story, and then take a look at Our Ethics. As the Fair Trade movement grows, so do we, and we’re always looking for ways to improve our business practices and our products.