Do you recognize this logo? When it appears on a product, it has been approved according to international standards for fair trade—standards that support small producers in developing countries and promote sustainable farming methods.
Many people who lean towards environmental and social consciousness are interested in fair trade but don’t regularly purchase—they believe that certified items are more expensive and difficult to find. Some fair trade products sit on regular store shelves and are competitively priced. Some are somewhat more expensive than other items–this reflects a fairer deal for farmers.
Why Bother Buying Fair Trade Products?
If it concerns you that workers and farmers struggle to participate in the global market, receiving low wages or returns, fair trade will be of interest. If you are concerned that crops, such as coffee, cocoa, and bananas, damage the land or involve the use of toxic pesticides, fair trade certification will also be a plus. An international non-profit organisation, called Fairtrade International, has set up standards for fair trade that require:
- Guaranteed minimum prices for farmers and producers, reflecting the average cost of sustainable production—producers are guaranteed a minimum price or the market rate, when higher;
- Pre-financing arrangements;
- Long-term contracts;
- Labour standards, including human rights, prohibition of child labour, and safety provisions;
- Democratic producer organizations;
- Prohibition of banned pesticides, proper waste disposal, and other environmental protection measures.
How Does Fair Trade Certification Work?
Fairtrade International sets the standards. Independent organisations determine whether the standards have been met at each stage of production and merchandising, until a product reaches the consumer. Here is my understanding of how this system might work for a package of coffee sold with the Fairtrade Canada logo on it:
- A coffee farmers’ association in a developing country gets support from Fairtrade International so that it can meet labour and environmental standards and become eligible for fair trade prices, financing, and contracts.
- A registered trader purchases coffee beans from the farmers’ association and brings them to Canada for grinding and packaging.
- The manufacturer registers with Fairtrade Canada for the right to use the Fairtrade Canada mark on approved coffee products.
- Fairtrade Canada monitors purchases, sales, and processing.
Buying Fair Trade Products
I’m convinced that we all benefit from a system that oversees production and sale in this way. If you want to know more about fair trade or where you can find products, please check these links:
Some cities and towns have citizen campaigns to promote fair trade products–there might be one in your area.