What is Fair Trade?

By now, I'm sure you have heard about the harsh working conditions and illegal labor practices used by some large corporations across the globe. Thankfully, there is a way to buy international goods and still support ethical labor practices, safe working conditions, and fair wages in developing countries.

Fair Trade is a form of product trade, born out of the social justice movement. It enforces higher social and environmental standards for producers and international trade companies who wish to be labeled fair trade.

Fair Trade Labeling Organizations (FLO) decide on Fair Trade Certified Products, and set a price for goods that cover the cost of production plus living wages, enough to cover the basics such as food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical needs. This ensures that workers and producers are paid a fair price for their goods. Importers and retailers are screened and certified by TransFair USA, to make sure they are paying the Fair Trade price for products.

Producers of Fair Trade products must follow the fair trade agreement. As part of this agreement, they promise to reinvest some of their revenue into their communities, such as helping to fund health clinics, schools, scholarship funds, housing, leadership training, and women's empowerment programs.

Fair Trade companies are also encouraged to follow Eco-friendly and sustainable practices when producing goods, and to respect natural habitats. For instance, about 85% of Fair Trade Certified coffee is grown organically, without the use of toxic chemicals.

Businesses are kept at a small scale, and cooperatives are encouraged, wherein every producer owns a portion of the company, has an equal say in decision making, and makes equal returns from the market.

Human rights and child labor laws are strictly enforced within Fair Trade companies, safe working conditions are guaranteed for workers, and women are encouraged to take leadership roles in business and community.

Buying Fair Trade is a good alternative for buying international goods, without supporting corporate greed. You can have the satisfaction of knowing that your money is helping to truly support families and communities overseas while promoting sustainable methods.

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

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