" People see it as charity, but it is not, it is justice.
We have to get rid of the charity way of thinking. I see Fair Trade
as doing two things: one, it is helping people immediately and
changing their lives; then, there is the bigger picture where it
is a protest tool, a way of registering your vote. But now we are
not boycotting something, we are supporting something positive.”
Bruce Crowther, Fair Trade Towns Co-ordinator,
Fairtrade Foundation (2003) as quoted in Nichols
and Opal p.4
Photographed by Piper O'Sullivan, North India 2006
How does Fair Trade work?
Businesses that would like to adopt Fair Trade practices have to
purchase certification licenses. The international Fairtrade
Labeling Organization (FLO) sends representatives to the farms
from which the products are purchased and ensures that the farmers
adhere to the procedures
outlined in the Fair Trade standards. FLO
or one of its 19 National Initiatives (NI), also audits the supply
chain for the product to ensure that the Fair Trade prices have been
paid. After successful completion of the process, the product is certified
and the Fair Trade label can be displayed on it. Products marked by
the Fair Trade label contain 100% Fair Trade certified contents.
The importer and the processor have to pay the costs for acquiring the license.
The farmer himself does not have to carry the burden. However, it is worth
noting, that some co-operatives encompass all these functions, therefore indirectly
the farmer does end up paying. The FLO as well as its NI are registered nonprofit
organizations. They are constantly being monitored by an independent Boards
of Trustees. Therefore, consumers can be quite certain that these organizations
adhere to their standards as impartial and nonpartisan.
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How can I be sure to buy Fair Trade products?
Fair Trade products have to undergo a rigorous testing to acquire the
certificate. This works through a process of third-party auditing and
The Fair Trade system certifies as of
now agricultural products, such as coffee, bananas, tea, sugar, rice,
and fresh fruit. A slightly different system is used for handicrafts.
Importing organizations for handicrafts such as Ten Thousand Villages
have to register with the Fair Trade
which requires them to uphold a related but different set of standards
to what is explained
above. When a product is branded with the Fair
Trade Certified label, you know for sure that the
Fair Trade standards have been met.
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What is the consumer’s role in the Fair
In Europe for example, the Fair Trade movement has been instrumental
in building up consumer pressure on coffee and banana companies to
stop using forced and child labor and to examine their business practices,
etc. Therefore, the conscious decision to pay for Fair Trade products
sends a message to competing companies.
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