With World Fair Trade Day being celebrated around the world on Saturday 11th May, we thought it might be worthwhile to reflect on the main reasons why it is important to buy fair trade.
- Gives Disadvantaged Small Scale Producers More Control Over Their Lives –The ‘Fair Trade Minimum’ guarantees producers a safety net of a ‘minimum price’ (set by Fair trade Standards) for products they sell as fair trade if the market price decreases. By the same account, it also allows them to benefit when market prices rise above the ‘minimum price’. With less vulnerability to price volatility, farmers are able to confidently take control of their businesses by investing in the future and ensure a better income for their families.
- Grassroots Development – Fair trade producers receive a bonus type payment called the ‘Fair Trade Premium’ over and above the price they are paid for their products. This additional sum of money goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers (who in most cases live in extreme poverty) which they can use to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. Most importantly, by putting the money into a communal fund with complete autonomy over how it is used, enables people at a grass roots level to invest into the most needed areas for local community development.
- Fairer For the Environment - With almost daily reports in the media offering doomsday scenarios on the future of our planet due to climate change and reduction in biodiversity, it is encouraging to know that at the heart of The Fair Trade standard is the focus on sustainability and environmental protection. Standards (amongst others) include initiatives on greenhouse gas emissions reduction and biodiversity protection. This includes providing guidance to farmers on switching to environmentally friendly practices and helping them mitigate the impact of climate change.
- Zero Tolerance of Child Labour - Fair trade means zero-tolerance of child labour. Children under 18 years old are banned from work that endangers them or their schooling. Children under 15 are not to be employed by Fair trade organisations.
- Gender Equality – 25% of all farmers and workers in the fair trade community are women. At the heart of the fair trade movement is the belief that the role of women in agriculture needs more visibility, recognition and value, and that gender equity is important to social sustainability. The fair trade premium is often used to support gender equality through initiatives such as helping women to find new ways of earning income as well as improved access to water, healthcare and transport.
- Giving Consumers A Conscious Choice to End Social Exploitation – The fair trade label is the most widely-recognised ethical label globally, with over 78% of UK consumers recognising the fairtrade mark. It gives consumers a visible way to identify and select products on the supermarket shelf in line with their values and principles over those which may not adopt the same equitable trading practices. Each time you buy fair trade products you are directly choosing to end exploitation of farmers and workers.
- Safer Working Conditions – There have been some notable cases over the past few years in which factory workers producing clothes destined for our supermarkets have lost their lives through inadequate health and safety conditions; none more so than the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in which more than 1,100 garment workers died. Buy buying fair trade you are not only choosing products which guarantee producers a fairer income but are also helping to ensure safe working conditions for employees. This includes stronger requirements by employers to provide quality on-site housing for workers, making sure they have contracts with proper leave and overtime and that they have the right health and safety equipment for their work.