According to the World Fair Trade Organization, fair trade is “a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks great equality in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of marginalized producers and workers.”
Fair trade seeks to compensate producers of goods and products with a fair wage. The individuals who produce fair trade products are often living in extreme poverty in developing nations with few available sources of income.
MYTHS & MISCONCEPTIONS
MYTH: Buying fair trade means that it’s more expensive to the consumer.
- FACT: Many fair trade organizations work directly with the producer. This allows them to cut out the middleman and, in turn, cut the costs. This keeps fair trade products competitively priced while also giving the producer a higher percentage of the return.
- MYTH: Fair trade is low quality products.
- FACT: Since fair trade products are usually handmade, there is some natural variation. However, this does not correlate to low quality. Still, fair trade organizations are constantly working to improve both quality and consistency.
- MYTH: Fair trade is a form of charity.
- FACT: Fair trade promotes long-term change through relationships that build self-sufficiency. Success is based on many individual successfully-run organizations and businesses--not on hand outs. As these organizations and businesses grow in the developing world, they are able to employ more individuals in their small communities--many of which have no other available source of income.
MYTH: Chocolate and coffee are the only fair trade products.
- FACT: Fair trade includes a large variety of both agricultural and handmade goods. These include jewelry, soap, clothing, bags, baskets, home décor, beauty products, toys, tea, rice, wine, fruits, vegetables, sugar, and more!
MYTH: The point of fair trade is to pay developed world wages in the developing world.
FACT: The wages provided to fair trade producers are not based on any wage standard from the developed world. Rather, they are designed to be fair compensation based on the true cost of production. This true cost is determined by the amount of time, skill, and effort involved in production, minimum and living wages of the area, purchasing power of the community, and other costs of living in the area of production.
MYTH: Fair trade is anti-globalization.
FACT: Fair trade organizations seek to maximize the positive impact of globalization, including connecting individuals, communities, and cultures from throughout the world. Simultaneously, they try to minimize the negatives of globalization, including low labor, social, and environmental standards.
- MYTH: Fair trade takes jobs away from the developed world.
FACT: The mission of fair trade organizations is to improve the lives of those living in the deepest of poverty who often lack a source of income. Many fair trade products are representative of the local cultures and traditions which are not present in the United States and Europe. Therefore, these products are often not being produced in the developed world.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The easiest way to support fair trade is to buy fair trade! Fair trade products are sold in most stores throughout the country, including Costco, CVS, Whole Foods, and Target. Next time you’re out, be on the lookout for the black, blue, and green symbol pictured here.
Additionally, there are websites dedicated to selling only fair trade products. Here are some of our favorites: