Fair Trade has become part of the retail lexicon – a term we recognise as conveying some degree of social conscience behind the production of goods sold in our high streets.
Fair Trade principles have operated for more than 60 years. The now recognisable “Fairtrade” campaign is more than 20 years old. Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for small-scale farmers.
In 1967, Pope Paul VI in “The Development of Peoples” encyclical stated that market prices, though freely agreed, can be unfair… free trade can only be called just when it conforms to the demands of social justice. Writing this year for Independent Catholic News (ICN) Father Shay Cullen praised Fair Trade as a strong successful way to bring justice to the poor. He argued that by addressing issues of poverty and social justice Fair Trade had a role to play in helping those desperate migrants to thrive in their home countries.
Coffee was the first Fairtrade product appearing in UK shops in 1994. It exemplifies a fundamental principle of Fairtrade that establishing a minimum floor price for a product offers producers the market stability they need to survive and prosper.
Fairtrade has its critics. This month’s Ethical Consumer investigation into coffee products and shops stated that Fairtrade standards do not regulate wages if a smallholder employs less than a “significant number” of workers, generally said to be around 20. There is no requirement on someone employing fewer than 20 people even to pay the legal minimum wage.
- Look for the Fairtrade Foundation logo (right)when shopping
- Fairtrade applies to retailers not just products. Check online on sites such as Ethical Consumer to see if they are rated
- Shop with a list to control your spending so that you are in a position to make the Fairtrade choice, which may cost a little more.
Food for Thought
A “resource footprint” report by Trucost commissioned by Friends of the Earth contains astounding facts about the scale of natural resources used to make common items such a mobile phones and leather boots e.g. 13 tons of water needed to make a smartphone! Link to The Independent’s story: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/revealed-the-shocking-amount-of-resources-needed-to-make-products-such-as-mobile-phones-coffee-and-tshirts-10233672.html