Welcome to Fair Trade
As we prepare for Fairtrade Fortnight 2022 I have suddenly realised something; some people will hear or see the term “Fairtrade” for the first time during this annual event, and they might not know what it is! If you are one of those people, then this post is for you.
Fairtrade Fortnight is an event that takes place all over the UK for the two weeks covering the last week of February and the first week of March every year. Of course, Fairtrade isn’t just for
Christmas Fairtrade Fortnight, it’s for all year round, but we use this particular time each year to have a big UK-wide get-together while we raise awareness and showcase some of the fantastic products that are available to buy that are not only better choices for the environments, but also free of any form of exploitation. Which leads us nicely onto the Top 5 Reasons to Choose Fairtrade. These are presented here in no particular order.
Fair Trade means fair payment and good working conditions
In the UK we have the National Minimum Wage and what the current English government incorrectly call the “Living Wage”, but we all know there are unscrupulous employers around who will pay below these rates, often cash-in-hand to keep it off the books. Unfortunately, this happens all around the world, and some countries don’t even have a minimum wage at all, making it even easier to exploit their workforce. And so our thoughts turn to sweat shops with long hours of laborious work in unhealthy conditions for a meagre payment. Fair Trade, as I often tell people when they ask, is the exact opposite of that. When you buy a Fair Trade product, whether it’s a banana or a woolly jumper, a coffee or a candle, you can be confident that the people who produced your item was paid an amount that allows a decent standard of living, and that they worked in safe conditions, were allowed breaks for food and to use the toilet, and all sorts of other things the majority of us in the UK take for granted. Offering a fair payment often allows families to pay for their children’s schooling, giving them a better chance of avoiding sweat shop conditions and pay when they become working age. Which brings us to child labour…
Fair Trade means no child labour or other forced labour
Child labour! Imagine any child – your own child or grandchild, a friend’s child, or even yourself when you were young. Now imagine that child working long hours in a factory. It’s a very unpleasant thought, but it’s one that is very easy to put out of our minds when we are shopping. When we stop and think about it, we know very well that there are children just like the ones you just thought of, as well as adults of all ages, working in unsafe conditions for a pittance. It doesn’t have to be that way, and buying Fair Trade items goes a long way towards addressing these horrors. When you buy a Fair Trade product, you are not just helping a family live a better life (although that is a good enough reason in itself), you are giving a strong message to the exploitative companies throughout the world that you do not approve of their greed and unethical business practices. The more people shift to fair trade, the more the pressure is on greedy corporations to become more ethical.
Fair Trade respects the environment
People often think that Fair Trade is only about people. It’s not. It’s about the environment, too. We must look after our planet if we want it to support our children and grandchildren. Buying items that are Fair Trade does just that. The wonderfully creative individuals who produce the Fair Trade gifts and clothing we buy are incredibly adept at using up offcuts, using and upcycling what would otherwise be waste products, and when using a new raw material, ensuring it is sustainable. Spend any time browsing our online shop and you’ll spot patchwork clothing which uses up offcuts, reusable gift wrap made from recycled saris, highly decorative bowls made from coconut shells, ornaments skilfully carved from a parasitic plant that feeds off trees….. The list is huge!
Fair Trade offers long-term opportunities for disadvantaged producers
Those of us above a certain age may remember the term, “Trade Not Aid”, and although this term is not used much these days, the principle of it is still applied in Fair Trade. It’s about helping disadvantaged people – not by chucking a few pounds at them once a year, but by trading with them on a long-term basis. As such, these people are able to earn a regular wage, giving them security and the ability to plan for the future. In the words of the World Fair Trade Organisation, it enables “them to move from income insecurity and poverty to economic self-sufficiency and ownership”.
Fair trade practises
Importers who operate on a fair trade basis are very aware of the difficulties that can be faced not only by late payment, but also by the suppliers having to lay out money for raw materials. For this reason, a percentage of the order value is often paid up front, preventing the need for expensive borrowing. Fair trade importers are often also able to pay in increments throughout the period during which the ordered goods are being produced, allowing workers a steady wage rather than waiting for a larger lump sum after the whole order is complete.
For our part, as a retailer, we always pay for our orders at the time of ordering if the wholesaler allows this. For those who are unable to accept payment up front, we always pay our invoices within 48 hours of receiving it, often within minutes! If our wholesalers don’t make their suppliers wait for payment, we aren’t going to delay our payment either.
Want to know more?
I hope this has gone some way towards helping you understand what makes Fair Trade fair. If you want to know more about Fair Trade, including the 10 Principles of Fair Trade as set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation, click here. To find out more about Fairtrade Fortnight and how you can join in, visit the Fairtrade Foundation’s website. If you’ve spotted a certain inconsistency and you’re wondering why sometimes we say Fairtrade as one word and other times it’s two – Fair Trade – you can find the explanation here.
Don’t forget to visit our fair trade shop in Hull (HU1 2JH), or right here online