Why is fair trade important?
Fair trade companies are committed to equitable pay and workplace safety standards that will benefit developing economies in the long run. Employees work for a fair wage, and never in conditions that put their safety at risk.
A definition of fair trade developed by FINE, an informal association of four international fair trade networks (Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, World Fair Trade Organization, Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association): Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.
A living wage and decent working conditions are one of the two founding principles of the fair trade movement. The other founding principle is environmental sustainability. Fair trade coffee and cocoa cooperatives require their members to use sustainable agricultural methods and to grow organic agricultural products.
Raw materials used for textiles and other products are produced using environmentally sustainable methods. Some fair trade cooperatives have sought out producers in geographical regions with rich biodiversity and developed products that use the local resources in a sustainable way.
In addition to a living wage for their producers and an environmentally sustainable approach to commerce, fair trade enterprises also give importance to other social issues. For example, fair trade artisans often use traditional crafts and skills in making their products.
Choosing companies committed to fair trade practices makes a difference in the quality of life for those in developing nations. It can make the difference between children who have to go to work to supplement their parent’s meagre income, and children who have the time and energy to school.
Doing so also preserves their cultural identity and furthers world-wide cultural diversity. Fair trade cooperatives find it essential to be accountable to the public, so they set up review processes in which accountability and transparency are fundamental. Finally, because the concept of fair trade is dependent upon the ability of consumers to make educated purchases, fair trade cooperatives consider the education of their consumers to be one of their most important responsibilities.
Best of all, fair trade products are excellent products. As important as the economic, environmental and social principals are to your purchase of a fair trade product, the most important reason to buy them is their quality. Fair trade clothing and accessories are beautiful, unique, sometimes exotic.
Try a fair trade product the next time you make a purchase. In addition to ensuring a living wage, sustaining biodiversity and local environmental conditions and assisting an impoverished community to establish health care, child care and education, you will become the owner of some very wonderful stuff!