What is Fair Trade?
Fair trade has started to gain momentum as more and more companies continue to bring in Fair Trade goods. As a result, there has been a large variety of Fair Trade messaging in the marketplace, which has caused confusion amongst consumers. What is Fair Trade, and how is it different from Ethical Trade or the Sweatshop-free model?
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is essentially a model of trading goods - with a focus of engaging marginalized artisans and producers as its constituents. In the past, marginalized producers have not been able to successfully engage in trade, due to the lack of market access and resources on product design and quality. As a result, keeping them from making a sustainable living with the risk of poverty, and exploitation in the hands of middlemen.
These producers who are left on the sidelines of trade need constant support, encouragement, and trust building to get back in the trade highway. These requirements define the job of Fair Trade importers, and to a big extent, the impact we create. Many times, marginalized artisans lack product design awareness to make products ready for global markets. They also lack basic production resources; for instance, quality zippers, closures, and other accessories that are key to make a good quality product. Also the minimal access to logistics to move their finished goods in a safe and timely manner.
In addition, the perception of quality is very different from the expectation of global consumers. But the biggest challenge, is the lack of confidence with the artisans themselves - that they can succeed, and that their art is valuable. Prior false promises and failures usually are responsible for this lack of trust.
As a Fair Trade importer, we spend a lot of effort supporting our artisan partners with product design, logistics, materials, quality training, market awareness, and confidence building through long-term commitments. One of the biggest changes we can create is to bring back their confidence, which is the key catalyst for artisans to get back on their own and make progress in trade.
Fair Trade is in a way defined by its constituents and while it includes Fair wages, ethical trading practices and no “sweat”, it goes much more beyond that. It creates traders out of producers...