Fair Trade and ethical products embody everything that we stand for and support within our business. In honour of Fair Trade Day, we will explain what the term “Fair Trade” actually means and why it is important to support through your purchasing choices.
What does “Fair Trade” mean?
As stated by the original association, Fair Trade International, “Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.”
Fair Trade International works together with its member organizations particular to their specific countries to ensure that all activities and standards around the world are co-ordinated. The organisation focusses on several key areas to promote equality, support the vulnerable and protect the environment. The Fair Trade Foundation is the official association for the UK and together with other associations around the world, perform the following functions:
- Set social, economic and environmental standards for businesses to follow
- Certify products and ingredients that follow their standards and provide a designated label to show consumers which products and businesses are compliant
- Partner and assist with companies’ corporate responsibility activities that are in line with Fair Trade values
- Lobby the government to demand fair treatment in trade deals and changes or additions to laws to protect the vulnerable and the environment, as well as to abolish inequality or discrimination.
- Drive awareness of global issues of unfair trade and the importance of enforcing the Fair Trade standards
What Global Problems Does Fair Trade Address?
According to 2015 statistics by The International Labour Organisation, there are 265 million children used as labourers globally. According to data from the statistics aggregator The World Counts, an estimated 120 million of these children are engaged in hazardous work and 73 million are below 10 years old. Fair Trade organisations deny their mark to any company that makes use of child labour in any capacity and actively work with national child protection agencies to assist in protecting and removing impacted children from companies that are found to be in breach of these standards.
Climate Change and Environmental Destruction
With 36 billion tons of CO2 being emitted globally each year, it is unsurprising that our global average temperatures have increased by a full degree since the pre-industrial era. Industry and Agriculture are the two biggest culprits, combining to contribute a whopping 45% of the total CO2 emitted globally. They are also the biggest culprits of deforestation with a staggering estimated 18 million acres of forest being lost each year (according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)). Fair Trade associations assist in combatting this by providing standards and associated incentives for businesses to reduce their carbon foot print and environmental impact.
Many believe that slavery is a thing of the past. Sadly, this is far from the case, with around 40 million people living in slavery around the world today according to data from the statistics aggregator The World Counts. They are forced to work, often under threat of violence or starvation, many working for subsistence alone. Aside from Fair Trade’s standards that support businesses that promote fair treatment of workers, the organizations often engage with areas known for high volumes of forced labour and have several programmes in place to protect, rescue and assist those in forced labour conditions. In partnership with other NGOs, Fair Trade assists in creating and implementing preventative measures for producers and high risk companies, training farmers and workers on human rights topics and connecting companies with producers that follow the Fair Trade standards and values.
Human and Workers Rights
Whilst first world countries such as the UK may have complex and frequently enforced labour laws and workers unions to lobby for fairer laws and uphold workers’ rights, it is important to remember that even with products manufactured within the UK, the materials or ingredients may be produced in other countries where effective labour laws don’t exist or are not properly enforced. In statistics from a 2017 study, it was found that 84 countries exclude groups of workers from labour law, over 75% of countries deny workers collective bargaining and their right to strike and the number of countries where workers were exposed to physical violence and threats increased by 10%. To combat this, Fair Trade’s standards for certification always meet or exceed requirements in internationally accepted conventions, their certifiers independently verify that all Fair Trade companies or producers are following their standards and they fund targeted programmes to address human rights issues.
As with human rights within the workplace, the UK is making great strides to reduce the gender pay gap and inequality in the workplace, but many companies and producers around the world have vastly differing payment gaps, low representation of women within senior roles and overrepresentation within low-paying positions. There is still a 31.4% average gender gap within the global work force. To challenge and improve this, Fair Trade has designed their standards to increase female participation, prevent gender inequality and empower more women to access Fair Trade benefits.
You have a chance to make a difference and take a stand with every product that you purchase, so remember to choose wisely and support Fair Trade and brands with values. Our values are reflected in every stage of our production and we will continue to strive to be Ambassadors for positive change.