Today our society is more conscious than ever before about the processes behind our purchases and how they are produced. Whether it’s your food being organic or free range to our packaging being eco-friendly. Sustainability is becoming much more popular as we become more aware of the climate we live in. With that said, Fair Trade is not a new concept but is still not a household name.
Many people are still unsure of what Fair Trade is and how it actually helps. Most of us have heard of the term ‘Fair Trade’ from large names such as Starbucks but have never really understood what that means. Fair Trade spans across all industries not just coffee and we want to give you all the information you need to shop smart and helps others while doing so!
In this post we will cover what Fair Trade is, the difference between Fair Trade and Free Trade, whether Fair Trade really is fair, does Fair Trade really help workers and where you can explore more Fair Trade brands that have been approved by the WFTO (the World Fair Trade Organisation).
What is Fair Trade?
‘Fair Trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.’ – Fairtrade Foundation.
Fair Trade is a partnership between the producer and consumer so that no one is exploited. It exists to put people and our planet first above any profit. Fair Trade looks after producers and their employees in developing countries such as Mexico, India, Malaysia and so on, making sure that they are in good working conditions, receiving fair pay, creating equal opportunities and more. A developing country is defined as a country with middle to low income. There are currently over 100 developing countries on Earth.
A large portion of what we buy is made in developing countries. To keep the cost as low as possible, some companies will pay their staff a very low wage whilst allowing them to work in an unsafe environment. Some larger companies have even been scrutinized for allowing child labour in the workforce. This is why the principles of Fair Trade are important.
Fair Trade guidelines are designed for companies to follow to make sure that their employees are protected, or that their products are supplied by producers that look after their artisans.
Below are the 10 guidelines of Fair Trade that companies must follow as set by the World Fair Trade Organisation.
Why is Fair Trade Important?
Have you ever thought about the person who made your favourite shirt? How many hands have touched something that means so much to you? What is the story behind it? What if you were to receive a letter from the person who made it or a message sewn into your favourite shirt with a cry for help?
Well, it’s not unheard of, a few women across England bought items from a well known major high street retailer with the startling labels sewn into their clothes with messages such as ‘Forced to work exhausting hours.’ and ‘Degrading sweatshop conditions.’ Is that item still your favourite shirt after realising that it caused someone suffering to make?
It may not always be the conditions they work in however, many families work long hours and are struggling to live due to not receiving minimum wage. Oxfam has stated: “A typical cotton producing household in West Africa has about 10 family members, an average life expectancy of about 48 years and an adult literacy rate of less than 25 percent. Cotton is often the only source of cash income for these families who live on less than $1 a day per person.” Can you imagine what it’s like to survive on so little?
Fair Trade is important because it makes sure that people are treated with respect, not overworked and have opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers. It makes sure that our earth is looked after in the process and leaves as small of a carbon footprint in its wake. It also makes sure that women feel empowered in countries where they may not have equal opportunities, as well as allowing people to become more income-secure and less vulnerable to poverty.
More and more companies are getting on board with Fair Trade practices with over 1.65 million farmers and workers working in the Fair Trade system. It’s now our job as consumers to recognise the work that is being done and to support them so they can continue to be treated fairly.
The difference between Fair Trade and Free Trade?
Even though Free Trade sounds great, it actually acts as an enemy towards Fair Trade. Fair Trade places restrictions on producers and farmers to make sure that they pay minimum wage, supply safe working conditions and so on.
Free Trade, however, removes all of these restrictions and makes products free from taxes, worker protection and minimum wages. In turn, this means that Free Trade makes things cheaper, but also means that the workers can be paid less. Free Trade looks after the corporation’s bank account while Fair Trade looks after the workers being exploited by corporations.
Is Fair Trade really fair and does it really help workers?
Many companies have embraced Fair Trade in a sincere way but that does mean that some companies can fall through the gaps. There are companies that have used the Fair Trade branding to suggest they are more ethical than they truly are. These companies have made it difficult to know whether Fair Trade really is fair.
The knock-on effect is a distrust of Fair Trade as a whole. Whilst companies may misuse the term, Fair Trade as an ideal is designed to help those that otherwise would be neglected or mistreated. The 10 key guidelines set the boundaries of what is expected from companies who claim to be Fair Trade and it is up to those companies to live up to them.
It is important for companies to visit their producers and manufacturers regularly to make sure that the Fair Trade guidelines are being adhered to. At Paper High, we make regular visits to India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to not only continue a great relationship with our suppliers but to also make sure we continue to work with producers who empower and look after their employees.
We take great pride in our products knowing that they are made by talented artisans who live sustainable lives and enjoy work. It is extremely important to us that all people are treated fairly and equally and we do everything we can to make sure this happens in everything we sell.
If you would like to make sure that the items you are purchasing are truly Fair Trade then you can look for companies to purchase from through organisations such as the WFTO – https://wfto.com/buy-fair-trade.
Fair Trade is a great way to improve the quality of life for yourself and the many people behind the item. You can leave knowing that your purchase was produced with care and that the people creating it are looked after. Leaving you with a happy soul and not a guilty conscience. Fair Trade is about caring for your ‘neighbours’ even if they live on the other side of the world. Be mindful in your purchases and shop Fair Trade.
For gifts, bags and wonderful handmade journals check out our site where you can find out where each item is made and what great work goes behind the products.