There are millions of hard-working farmers, artisans, and workers in developing countries who produce the food that we eat, daily-use goods, and artwork. 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.
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.
What does Fair Trade mean?
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.
Read: History of Fair Trade
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.
Why should you buy from Fair Trade Shops?
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 reasons why you should buy from Fair Trade shops:
- Fair wages for farmers and artisans
For Fair Trade goods, there is a Fairtrade minimum price which acts as a safety net against falling prices in the market. This ensures that local workers have a steady income despite fluctuations in market price. It is the only certification that provides workers with a unique minimum price plan.
In addition, there is also a Fairtrade Premium for products that are labelled as organic. Workers can use this additional money to support themselves and keep their businesses running. The economic standard also provides long-term trading partnerships; buyers need to pre-finance farmers and workers for the supply of their products.
All of this helps to improve the socio-economic condition of farmers and workers, as well as to stabilize their operations.
- Eco-friendly production
Fair Trade certification also requires rigorous environmental standards that aim to minimize the impact on our planet while considering the geographical and financial realities of workers. Although it doesn’t require organic certification, it encourages ecologically and agriculturally sound practices including responsible waste and waste management, protecting natural resources and soil fertility, and minimal use of pesticides and GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds. This eco-friendly cultivation rewards workers by increasing Premium and Minimum prices.
- Better working environments
The social standards of Fair Trade cover things like safe working conditions, job security, democratic self-organization, decision-making among workers, transparency, etc. in small-scale organizations and cooperatives where hired labour is the norm, they cannot discriminate between their workers and must treat them with honour. Also, the pay rates for workers must be equal to or higher than the minimum legal or regional wages. By supporting Fair Trade shops and organizations, you are directly improving the working conditions of farmers and artisans.
- Fair Trade prohibits labour exploitation
It is also extremely strict about how workers are treated and paid. It means zero tolerance for child labour and labour exploitation. Children (usually 18 and under) are banned from work which endangers their lives and schooling. Even for adults, a dangerous and exploitative working environment leads to decertification and other charges. So, buying fair trade means you stand against the exploitation of people and unfair pay.
- Fair Trade license generates funds
The certification generates licensing funds, which are given to fair trade communities. These funds go directly to the workers, and to improve their products and working environment. Each community decides how to use the funds through democratic decision-making and voting systems. It can be used for social, economic, and environmental development projects, scholarships, schools, leadership and vocational training, organic certification, etc.
- High-quality products
Although it doesn’t require organic certification, the farmers are encouraged to cultivate organically. The products are mostly free of genetically engineered ingredients and are produced with minimal use of pesticides, and fertilizers. Waste is kept minimum and waste management is responsibly done.
Fairtrade products are equitable at every level of the supply chain. There is a high level of transparency and traceability in global supply chains. This gives workers details about how, where, and what their products are sold for. Consumers can find out the origin of the products and where they have been. This improves food security. It also connects workers and consumers to interact more personally.
- Ethical purchasing
Fairtrade also provides consumers with the freedom to shop according to their principles and stand in solidarity with farmers and workers.
Also read: What is Fair Trade and Why is it Necessary
In the end,
it all comes down to fair prices for a product. As consumers, we should get products that meet our requirements, are healthy, and are ethical. For underprivileged artisans and farmers, they should receive fair pay for the hard work they put in. If we want locally made, organic commodities, or culturally significant artworks, we need to recognize the labour behind these products. Companies shouldn’t cynically keep the profits to themselves and exploit labour in any circumstances.
Further, Fair Trade certified brands, like Himalayan Merch, care for the local farmers and workers. We aim to provide a marketplace for underprivileged farmers and artisans. Not only domestically, but we also provide international exposure for products made locally in Nepal. On one hand, you get genuine and authentic products at the best price. And on the other hand, you support and incentivize workers. Suppliers and manufacturers that wish to sell products made in Nepal in bulk can also reap the benefits of genuine products at the fairest price. If you want to purchase commodity products, apparel, local goods, art, and souvenirs, we facilitate shipping worldwide.
Fair Trade ensures the rights of consumers and labourers. Buying products that are labelled with the Fair Trade seal means you stand against labour exploitation and wage discrimination. A small change in our shopping habits can provide someone with a steady flow of income.