What is Fair Trade and why is it important? We hear about “fair-trade” often and the majority of us have a general understanding of what it means. But do you know the history behind fair trade? Where and how did it develop? What does it exactly mean and why is so important for the world?
In our blog post this week, we explore some of the answers to these questions.
Watch our video on how Sukhi impacts the lives of our artisans in Kathmandu, Nepal here
What is Fair Trade?
At its core, fairtrade is about “better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world”. This trusted relationship between consumers and producers encourages ground root development in the less privileged countries and communities.
Fair trade organizations carry out their relationship with producers keeping in mind the following principles:
- Equal distribution of economic gains and opportunities associated with production and sales of goods.
- Joint-making, meaning the workers and management join together in a democratic approach to producing and managing their product.
- Direct trade relationships and long-term contracts between buyers and producers
- Promoting and encouraging the empowerment of the common public in developing countries and the economic social growth of developing countries.
- Promoting safe, sustainable, and environmentally friendly production
- Increasing consumer awareness and engagement with the issues affecting producers and concerning fair trade principles
- Promoting labor rights and the right of workers to organize, including:
- No child labor, no child under 15 of age can work
- Freedom of association and collective bargaining
- Equal working conditions, fair salaries, and a safe working environment
Read more here.
The start of the Fair Trade movement in the world
Fair trade’s history starts in different countries sometime in the 1960s. Each effort has contributed to creating what the Global Fair Trade Movement is today. This movement started in North America and Europe, but it wouldn’t have been possible for it to grow to its full strength without the non-profit organizations and socially motivated people in developing countries.
In the United States, a common story about the origin of Fair Trade starts in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer in Puerto Rico noticed some beautiful needlework being created by the local women that lived in extreme poverty. Edna started carrying their work back to the United States for selling, and returned the income to the artisan women in Puerto Rico. This eventually launched the fair trade organization in the United States and the first fair trade store opened in 1958.
At about the same time, in 1965, the UK-based NGO Oxfam began selling crafts made by Chinese refugees in their stores. This lead to their program, “Help-by-selling”, to sell handicrafts that were made by community enterprises in the developing world.
A similar movement was taking place in the Netherlands. It is here that the first “world-shop” was opened in 1965. The original world-shop expanded throughout Western Europe creating a designate ground for fair trade products and organizers to come together.
Progressively, leaders began to recognize the importance of unifying their separate efforts to make fair trade products more accessible to the general public. In response, a Dutch Christian development agency, called Solidaridad (who sold fair trade coffee), created the first fair trade label in 1988. This allowed their product to be sold beyond the world-shops, in the mainstream market, while both customers and distributors could still track the products origins and validity. Labeling expanded across Europe and North America and the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) was created in 1997 to unite the independent national initiatives under universal standards and a single mark.
In recent years, Fairtrade products have become an integral part of the mainstream market place and in 2015 consumers spent 7.3 billion euros on Fairtrade products. Source.
Why is Fair Trade important?
Poverty is an important issue that we must address in our world as we move into the 21st century. 767 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day in 2013, according to World Bank’s official poverty line. Source.
Join the conscious living movement! Buy less, buy ethically, buy fair trade!