You wake up in the morning and pour yourself a cup of coffee. After shaking off the sleepiness, you put on your outfit for the day, grab a snack to go, and head out to conquer the day. During your morning routine, do you ever think about the work that went into the elements of your daily life? Do you think about the farmers or the roasters of your coffee? The hands that assembled your shirt, packed it into a box, and sent it on it’s journey to you? Most of us buy thousands of items every year without a thought about the conditions they were made, the people that those products affect, and how it impacts the environment.
Would you feel good about using exploitative goods? Of course not! However, we have sustained a way of life where it’s easy to add an item to your cart with little or no consideration for how it came to fruition. An appealing product that was affordable may be enough to secure a sale but what impact does it have on the quality of life of those who make it and on the planet?
In the last 20 years, ethically made products have become much more accessible. With the rise of the internet, fair trade has grown from a tick on a to-do list to a full on worldwide movement. From red carpet walkers to mindful local bloggers, people are ready to remove their blinders and start making purchases with purchase. But what exactly is fair trade?
What is Fair Trade?
Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system. Fair trade enterprises incorporate nine principles into their daily operations. They are:
Creating opportunities means an organization is dedicated to poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Interests of the makers and the communities are the supreme concern.
Develop transparent and accountable relationships
Transparency is the backbone of a fair trade organization. Cultivating consistent, respectful, open, and fair relationships for both customers and producers is vital.
Building capacity means proactive communication, financial and technical assistance, market information, and dialogue to develop makers’ independence. A maker’s skills and capacity are nurtured and empowered as well as their access to markets.
Promote Fair Trade
(Hey! We’re doing that now!) Fair trade organizations actively raise awareness about greater justice in the global economic system. They do so not only to their makers but to the world
Pay promptly and fairly
This is exactly how it sounds. Pay promptly and pay fairly. As we have stated earlier, makers are living breathing human beings. They deserve dignified work and to be liberated from poverty.
Support safe and empowering working conditions
All work environments are free from forced labor. Workplaces are places of empowerment, not oppression. There is no space for abuse, harassment, or turmoil of any kind.
Ensure the rights of children
There will be no child labor in the production of fair trade goods. Children have the right to security, education, and play. Fair trade organizations ensure those rights. Any involvement of children in the production of Fair Trade products (including learning a traditional art or craft) is always disclosed and monitored and does not adversely affect the children's well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play.
Cultivate environmental stewardship
Our generations have the ability to meet our own needs without compromising the needs of future generations. Fair trade organizations reduce, reclaim, reuse, and recycle wherever possible. Be excellent to each other and to the planet.
Respect cultural identity
Cultural diversity is celebrated, not appropriated. Fair trade organizations respect the traditions and techniques of makers and create positive equitable change. Marker needs are balanced with the cultural heritage of the maker.
Knowing Your Purchase
On your journey to purchase purposefully it’s important to identify the differences between for a cause, fair trade products, and fair trade organizations/businesses. Let’s look at the differences:
For A Cause
With the increasing number of companies whose products include a donation to any number of causes, it’s easy to classify them all as ethical or even fair trade. Usually these are products that are tied to a donation for a particular movement or issue. Too many “for cause” businesses negotiate lower costs for their products so they can afford to give back. That low cost of goods adversely affects the makers. In the same way that consumers are upset because companies pass higher tariffs onto them, manufacturers can only offer lower costs by keeping workers’ wages low or using lower quality, or questionably sourced raw materials. In short, if it’s not made with fair trade standards it’s not a fair trade product.
Fair Trade Products
A fair trade product is exactly that. It is a single product that meets the standards of fair trade. It’s made ethically with the maker and the planet in mind and that specific product has been verified by a 3rd party. However, creating a few or a line of fair trade products does not mean that the entire company can carry this label. Some of the products an organization offers may meet these standards but they have not gone through the verification process as a business or organization.
Learn more about the World Fair Trade Organization’s product label and WFTO Guarantee status here.
Companies that are fully committed to fair trade and have undergone the verification process from a third party organization can call themselves a fair trade enterprise. These companies don’t just buy and sell a few fair trade products, they live by the fair trade standards and encourage others to do the same.
In short? Feel good. Do Good.
Being a fair trade enterprise is a continued, conscious effort that requires constant introspection and full transparency. This journey is not only important for the makers and the planet. The consumer has a big part to play too. You can change lives through a simple purchase decision. Perhaps most importantly, your partnership sets an example in the marketplace that ethical commerce can affect systemic bottom-up change through the dignity of work. They say, “it takes a village.” We at GOEX Apparel say it takes the world. It’s a big dream but with everyone contributing, big dreams can come true.