This is a guest post from my husband, a high school social studies teacher. In his personal studies, he has become very interested in Fair Trade, and loves to share what he's learned.
What in the world is Fair Trade? In actuality, there is no concrete definition of Fair Trade. However, the term generally refers to the movement to ensure that producers in developing countries receive more of the benefits from products sold to consumers.
Companies certified by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) ensure a minimum price for farmers, for example. The theory being that the “minimum wage” will help assist those struggling regions to develop into an economically productive region. As a side note, some products claiming to be fair trade might not dedicate themselves to a minimum price, thus allowing adjustments as they see fit.
The Fair Trade market might be small, but it is growing quickly (perhaps more quickly in Europe than America).
Advocates applaud Fair Trade’s pricing. By cutting out the middleman, Fair Trade seeks to relay more of the money back to the producer. In addition, producers learn about the market, trade and exporting. While advocates point to the possibility of Fair Trade’s assistance in eradicating poverty, critics claim Fair Trade’s weak impact, saying that Fair Trade helps a small few, while not really helping the big picture at all. Similarly, critics proclaim Fair Trade as counter-productive by delaying the inevitable—the need for developing nations to diversify their economies.
There definitely exist concrete pros and cons to Fair Trade. There is good reason to think its impact is too small. However, Fair Trade possesses one more unmistakable positive—the power to educate and enlighten. Sure, perhaps its impact is minimal. That’s for the individual consumer to decide. But the fact that Fair Trade is in stores and people are asking questions about Fair Trade creates a discussion.
The true concept behind Fair Trade is to build awareness about the poverty in the world. So maybe you hate Fair Trade and its coffee, teas, chocolates and clothes, but we can’t deny the fact that Fair Trade brings to light a greater question: What are we doing to assist the poor of the world?