We believe most people don’t want to buy products made by companies that exploit workers and destroy the environment. The challenge for super busy people is how to easily evaluate what to buy and how to get great products that are good for workers and the planet without breaking the bank.
Our mission at Simply Inspired Goods is to make this process easy, so I want to share one way we find products that treat workers well and pay them fairly - the fair trade movement.
What is fair trade?
Fair trade is a concept or philosophy that workers and artisans in less developed countries should be paid a wage for their work that allows them to live a decent life and advance economically through hard work.
How do you define fair trade?
There are a several slightly different definitions of the term “fair trade,” but according to Merriam Webster:
What does fair trade mean?
In other words, fair trade is a movement based on the belief that workers and communities, should not be unfairly exploited by their trading partners and trade agreements should benefit both consumers and producers. Trade should create economic growth and improved living conditions for workers and communities so they can become consumers, which in turn benefits everyone by growing the overall economy.
What are fair trade products?
Fair trade products are products produced in developing countries, as well as, products produced in the United States using fair trade ingredients produced in other countries (think Starbucks coffee and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream). Initially, fair trade efforts focused primarily on produce and commodities, but as interest in trade as a vehicle for development has increased there has been more focus on value added consumer goods like fair trade clothing, fair trade jewelry, and fair trade gifts.
What is fair trade certification?
One approach to promote and ensure fair trade has been the development of certifying organizations. These third parties evaluate the environmental and social impacts of the supply chain of a product or company and provide a certification that products meet a set of fair trade standards Organizations like Fair Trade International (formerly Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International); World Fair Trade Organization and Fair Trade USA have worked hard over the years to develop fair trade standards and certifications. Some of these organizations certify individual products and some certify fair trade companies.
What does it mean to be fair trade certified?
Each certifying organization applies a slightly different standards and the standards are often tailored to industry specific conditions. But some common standards include:
- Small farmers' organizations must have democratic decision making
- Employees receive minimum wages and have collective bargaining rights
- No forced or child labour and health and safety requirements are met
- Workers democratically decide how Fair Trade Premiums are spent
What is the fair trade premium?
Producers are paid a premium above market value for products that are Fair Trade Certified. This premium which can range from 15-60% is used to cover extra marketing costs and the remainder must be spent on social and economic improvement projects within the community. Workers decide how this money is spent and it often includes spending on education.
How do I know if a product is fair trade certified?
Products that are certified fair trade will typically be labeled with a logo provided by the certifying organization. Below are some examples of commonly used certification logos:
Is fair trade certification all I need to know?
While these certifying organizations have done a great job marketing and promoting the idea of fair trade and are clearly a step in the right direction, they are not without their detractors. Certification programs can involve a lot of time and money that can be an extra burden on smaller producers and some concerns have been raised about how effective these programs are at improving the quality of life of growers and producers.
What are Alternative Fair Trade Organizations and Social Enterprises
An alternative approach to promoting Fair Trade are organizations that work directly with producers to promote and market products directly to retailers and consumers in developed countries. This includes traditional businesses, as well as social enterprises with business models based entirely on direct engagement with artisans and producers in less developed countries.
The added value of these organizations is they help artisans develop products more consistent with mainstream taste in developed countries - this making them much more marketable. At Simply Inspired Goods we proudly partner with these alternative fair trade organizations to bring you amazing products and support the great work that they are doing in developing communities.
So how do I make sure my purchases support workers and the environment?
- Look for Fair Trade Certification when shopping for food or other consumables.
- Purchase products made by social enterprises and alternative trading organizations.
- Ask how things are made and how workers are treated. Letting retailers know this is important to you will help change the way they think products they offer.
- Ask yourself if the business you are buying from cares about what you care about (buying a vegan burger from McDonalds doesn’t make a ton of sense).
- Shop our environmentally and socially responsible products at Simply Inspired Goods.