Monday, December 17, 2012

What Is Fairtrade & Why Should You Care?

I discovered a new store yesterday - well, really just new to me - it's been there a few years, but the few times I was in the area it was outside of their business hours. It's such a cool little store - all focused on natural, sustainable, local and fairtrade products. (I browsed for far too long!)

You may have seen some packages labeled "Fairtrade" on a visit to your local market.  Or perhaps you’ve noticed the media addressing the topic of Fairtrade.  Even notable Starbucks Coffee has started an initiative to use only Fairtrade coffee in their establishments.  But what exactly is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade Certified quinoa producers in Ecuador
Fairtrade Certified quinoa producers in Ecuador (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Fairtrade is essentially an organized system to ensure that producers, artisans and businesses worldwide are treated fairly.  That means fair pricing and practices.  Fairtrade also works to ensure environmental sustainability, fair labor conditions, and the reinvestment of resources into local communities - something that's good for everyone.  Essentially, Fairtrade is for the betterment of all.

So who regulates Fairtrade and who determines if a product or business can be labeled Fairtrade?  Internationally, there is the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, or FLO, which co-ordinates Fairtrade labeling at an international level.  Their offices are located in Bonn, Germany and they:

* Set international Fairtrade standards
* Organize support for producers around the world
* Develop global Fairtrade strategy
* Promote trade justice internationally

Nationally, there is the Fair Trade Federation.  The FTF was established to strengthen and promote North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. The Federation is part of the global Fairtrade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty.

WFTO Fair Trade Organization Mark
WFTO Fair Trade Organization Mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Likewise, there is also a European Fair Trade Association. EFTA's goal is to promote fair trade and to make fair trade importing more efficient and effective.

Fairtrade Action Network was established to connect volunteers who are interested in promoting fair trade. Their goal is to create an internet community to share ideas and experiences on fair trade campaigning.

As you can see, Fairtrade is a global initiative. According to FLO, in 2008, Fairtrade certified sales amounted to approximately $4.08 billion worldwide, a 22% year-to-year increase.  As per December 2008, 746 producer organizations in 58 developing countries were Fairtrade certified.

Buying Fairtrade products helps to ensure people around the world are essentially treated fairly.  It brings global commerce to a whole new level.  The Fairtrade label gives you the confidence the people who made your product are living a better life.  It’s a great movement - one you can be proud to participate in. For more ideas on how you can get involved, check back for Wednesday's post.

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