“Fair Trade isn’t just about coffee and cacao, it’s about everything.”
– David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer, Dr. Bronner’s
You hear a lot about the importance of voting with your dollar, but how much does each purchase actually matter? A lot! Every purchase has the potential to help create a more socially, economically, environmentally just planet. That’s why certifications like Fair Trade are so important, giving consumers an easier way to create an equitable society. But what does Fair Trade actually mean? It’s more than just fair payments for farmers; it’s a revolutionary economic system that cares about consumers, workers, and the planet.
At the store, products are just there, with little hint of origin or resources used to create what sits on the shelf. Have you ever stopped to think about how that product was made, who made it, and under what conditions? If all of those stories were presented alongside the product, you would better understand the impact a single product can have. The mission of the non-profit organization, Fair World Project, is to educate and advocate for a just global economy where people are treated fairly and with dignity, the environment is respected and nourished, and commerce fosters sustainable livelihoods and communities in a global society based on cooperation and solidarity.
Behind many conventionally made products are harsh conditions and exploited workers, one reason why a serious shift in demand for ethical products is vital for a just future and why fair trade certifications are critically important. As Fair Trade Campaigns explains, “When you choose to purchase Fair Trade products, you are endorsing an economic system that provides opportunities for international farmers, artisans, and workers to lift themselves out of poverty.”
Rather than view production as a step by step operation, with each step a separate entity, Fair Trade looks at production systems as a whole and asks how an item can be made and sold to benefit everyone involved. When the world was put on hold during the pandemic, a great burden fell upon people working in production globally. Many lost jobs or were denied proper wages, while others weren’t provided health care or personal protective equipment to shield against both harmful pesticide exposure and the virus. At its core, Fair Trade supports fair prices paid to farmers, workers’ rights, economic and community development, and environmentally-friendly production methods.
Because you often can’t meet the people who make the products you buy, third-party certifications and Fair Trade membership labels ensure your purchases match your values. Labels such as Fair for Life, Fairtrade America, Fair Trade USA, World Fair Trade Organization, and Fair Trade Federation verify that a product was made following certain standards. While the specifics vary, all include some provisions for fair and transparent prices for farmers, livable wages for workers, and premiums to support sustainable production and community development.
The goods you use, the food you eat, and the clothing you wear are often (almost always) grown, produced, packaged, and transported by people you’ve never met in places you’ve never been.
To learn about the difference between Free Trade and Fair Trade, watch this video here.
- Browse Fair Trade Campaigns’ Myths and FAQs to better understand what Fair Trade means.
- Find two ways Fair Trade goods are beneficial to people and the planet.
- Incorporate these into a colorful drawing or design about Fair Trade and share it with classmates, friends, family and on social media, tagging @TurningGreenOrg and any other relevant accounts.
Behind every product is the story of a real person, whose life is directly tied to the practices you chose to support with your purchase. Here’s a chance to learn about the people who grow and produce your products and about how Fair Trade practices promote equality and justice globally.
Take some time to learn about Fair Trade with the following resources:
- Look through Fair World Project’s latest publication of its magazine, For a Better World
- Watch the Dr. Bronner’s film, Journey to Serendipol, which demonstrates the far-reaching positive impact Fair Trade can have on an entire community
Now that you have learned more about the impact Fair Trade has on the lives of individuals, write about someone in the Fair Trade world that you discovered during your research and introduce them to your friends, family or classmates.
- Share their name and background, work they do, and how Fair Trade has helped them. Post it on social media as well, tagging @TurningGreenOrg and any other relevant accounts.
Individual actions add up to massive collective impact, so let’s take a look at your potential for personal contribution to the Fair Trade movement in any number of forms.
First, get familiar with the many types of Fair Trade labels and how they rank, so you know what to keep an eye out for.
Now, research 3 Fair Trade versions of items you use regularly. This can be food, skincare, apparel, outdoor gear, homegoods, anything. Assemble a list, comparing each conventional product and Fair Trade equivalent.
Don’t forget to post about the challenge and your learnings/doings on social media and tag us on Facebook @TurningGreen, on Twitter @TurningGreenOrg, and on Instagram @TurningGreenOrg and use #TGClassroom.