You may have heard the term “Fair Trade” when purchasing something one time or another. And it isn’t the only label out there. As the world strives for more environmentally, economically, and socially ethical and conscious products, it can be a bit challenging to keep up with the different certifications and labels. But since it is so important, now more than ever, when industrialization and capitalization have a huge impact on our planet, to know and understand these terms. And better yet, align our morals with them. In this blog, we cover what fair trade is, what the certification process is like, why you should buy fair trade products, and more specifically how you can support fair trade in Nepal.
What is Fair Trade?
There are millions of hard-working farmers, artisans, and workers in rural areas of Nepal who produce the food that we eat, make the clothes we use and create the artwork we enjoy. And unfortunately, they are not being paid enough to support their families, cover basic needs, and keep their businesses running. What happens in our conventional trade is that big companies buy these products and ingredients from local workers in bulk at a low price, then sell them to us at a much higher price. They don’t distribute the profits to the local workers equitably, or even keep the profits all to themselves, which is unfair. This is where Fair Trade comes in.
Fair Trade is a system of certification. It aims to provide job security, better wages, and rewards to marginalized and underprivileged farmers and artisans for their hard work and labour. It ensures workers’ rights, safer working conditions, and fairer pay. For consumers and supply companies, it means high-quality, ethically produced products. All in all, Fair Trade changes the way trade works through better prices and product quality for everyone involved.
By buying products with the Fair Trade label, you are giving farmers and artisans a better deal and a more stable income so that they can support themselves, their families, communities, and their businesses. When local workers sell their products via Fair Trade cooperatives and plantations, they get more money to improve their lives and products. This is why, we as consumers, should be aware of whether the products we purchase are socially and economically ethical and fair or not.
Fair Trade Certification:
When a product or a brand has the Fair Trade certification, it means that it meets a set of standards in production and supply. The certification is done by the Fair Trade organizations of the respective country. The certification process can take anywhere between 6 to 9 months. In general, a Fair Trade organization does a pre-assessment of the company through interviews and meetings with the management and the workforce. An unbiased third-party auditor is enlisted to evaluate the products’ performance and whether they align with the Fair Trade standard. The label is finally given.
According to different terms, the audit process is repeated within a set time frame; usually annually. And when criteria are not met, the producer or supplier organization can face suspension until remedial actions are taken. Sometimes, the certification is even evoked.
How You Can Support Fair Trade in Nepal
Brands with the Fair Trade certification meet a range of economic, social, and environmental standards. These standards include environmentally-friendly production, worker’s rights, and payment of Fair Trade Minimum and additional Premium prices to invest in business and community development. The aim is to help workers and small-scale organizations through trade, instead of aid.
Here are some ways you can support fair trade in Nepal:
- Shop fair trade products
One obvious way to support fair trade in Nepal is to buy fair trade. Fairtrade label is recognized globally and is one of the most easily recognizable labels for all customers. A fair trade certification seal would look something like this:
Fairtrade goods like clothes, paper products, artworks, and so on are affordable, high quality, and ensure that there is equitable profit at all levels of the supply chain. Some fairtrade products you can buy in Nepal include hemp products (bags, clothing, purses), Nepali paper (Lokta paper) products, local incense, Mithila art, Thangka art, sculptures, handicrafts, etc. You have to make sure when buying these products that they are certified Fairtrade and are from a trusted source.
- Purchase food that is fair trade certified
We need food every single day of our lives. If we could change up our ways of shopping for something we buy as frequently as food, we can make a significant change in the standards of fairtrade in Nepal. Buy fruits, vegetables, and other commodities from farmers’ markets as much as possible. Or when buying from supermarkets, make sure the products are fairtrade certified. Again, the fairtrade label is hard to miss.
For products like tea and coffee, you can find the ones made in Nepal abundantly, anywhere.
- Buy locally
Sometimes you won’t need to look for fairtrade labels if you shop locally. In many places, there are established markets run by the locals. They produce and distribute their products directly rather than going through a distributing middle company. Such businesses have been running for generations and handed over to the newer ones.
For example, for handicrafts and local artworks, Patan and Bhaktapur in Kathmandu are popular. Similarly, you can find such established local marketplaces for clothes, food, and other goods.
- Support fairtrade businesses
A business certified as fairtrade cares for the workers that it gets the goods. Supporting such businesses encourages them to continue selling fairtrade products. Every time you choose them over super supply chains that import goods and sell them unfairly, you are incentivizing them to keep up the good work. And since it’s not an easy job to promote local products in an industrialized market, they need all the support they can get to stay up and running.
- Lend a helping hand
Donate to fairtrade businesses or organizations if you have the means to. Your help goes towards the communities of workers the organization is supporting. The workers get the help directly and can spend the money to support their families, send kids to school, use better equipment, and keep business running. Giving back goes a long way.
- Spread the word
Not everyone knows the conventional practice of trade and why it isn’t fair. So, educating people about fair trade and why it is important is crucial. Let your family, neighbours, friends, and even local shops and supermarkets know about it. If a supermarket isn’t selling fairtrade products, guide them on what it is and how they can get involved. Sharing posts on social media and sharing links helps too.
- Become a fairtrade certified business
Finally, join us. If you are looking to start a business on whatever it might be, consider going fairtrade. The more businesses there are selling goods fairly, the better. You can provide a marketplace for local artisans, farmers, and workers in rural areas of Nepal and sell their goods. Like Himalayan Merchandise.
Himalayan Merchandise is an online marketplace that aims to provide exposure to products that are made in Nepal. By providing exposure to local goods on a national and international scale, we contribute to the fairtrade movement in Nepal. Our products include hemp products (bags, purses, clothing, fabric), Lokta paper products (notebooks, greeting cards, lampshades), handicrafts such as singing bowls, Madhubani art, and prayer flags, and many more. Our products are 100% made in Nepal and support the talented artisans, farmers, and workers in rural areas. We take orders and ship internationally and sell products in bulk for traders as well.
And we hope through this blog, we were able to shine some light on what fairtrade is and how you can support it.