The History of Fair Trade - Buying and Selling of Product
Overview of Fair Trade
The concept of fair trade is part of the ethical consumer movement and is based on the goal of establishing equitable trade policies and greater economic opportunity for poor farmers and artisan crafters worldwide, particularly for those who live in the third world. In addition, the fair trade movement is dedicated to sustainable development, which is the development of third world production methods and technology that protects the environment. Fair trade also seeks to eliminate unsafe workplaces and child labor, as well as guarantee workers the right to unionize. Products that meet the standards of fair trade may qualify to be labeled as Fair Trade products by certain certification entities, such as the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Fair trade products encompass a wide variety of categories. Primarily it pertains to agriculture and the production and selling of food on the global market. One of the most commonly known goods that are sold under the fair trade label is various brands of coffee. In addition to agriculture, however, fair trade producers make and sell items related to the arts and crafts. These include everything from jewelry to baskets, bird houses, cookware, furniture, musical instruments, stationery, and toys.
According to the WFTO, there are ten basic principles for the achievement of fair trade. The first and most important is to provide economic advancement opportunities for poor farmers and other producers. Organizations that seek to qualify as fair trade entities must be transparent and accountable, which means that everyone from employees to stakeholders are involved in the running of the organization. Fair trading practices are also a requirement, and to achieve this, the WFTO proposes that economically disadvantaged producers receive interest-free pre-payments when needed, as well as compensation for work completed. Other basic principles include the establishment of fair prices for goods, a proscription of child labor and slave labor, equal rights for all, safe workplaces, environmental protection, improved production capacity, and the promotion of the cause of fair trade.
~FAQs: What is Fair Trade?: A FAQ page on the Fair Trade Association in Australia and New Zealand website. This page covers frequently asked questions including a definition of fair trade.
~Ten Principles of Fair Trade: This is a page on the World Fair Trade Organization website. This page outlines ten important principle of fair trade.
~University of Scranton: What is Fair Trade?: A definition of fair trade. This is an approved and accepted definition by the International Fair Trade Association.
~Fair Trade: A Vanderbilt University web page that defines fair trade. This page also includes principles of fair trade and examples of specific items that are available for purchase.
~FAQ: Fair Trade in General: The frequently asked questions page on the UK Fair Trade Foundation website. This page covers fair trade standards, the definition of fair trade and explains what a fair trade town is.
History of Fair Trade
The fair trade movement started in 1946, when Edna Ruth Byler traveled to Puerto Rico and discovered the poverty that existed in that country. She began to purchase goods made by artisans in the region and came back to Pennsylvania, where she sold them here in North America. She eventually founded the Overseas Needlepoint and Crafts Project, which then became Self Help Crafts, and finally what is now known as Ten Thousand Villages. In Europe, the fair trade movement began with Oxfam UK, which opened for business in Oxford in 1948 to sell imported goods from poor countries like China. SERRV International (short for Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation) started in 1949 to help refugees from World War II by selling their hand-crafted goods. Along with Ten Thousand Villages, Oxfam UK went on to join with other organizations to form the World Fair Trade Organization in 1989.
In 1997, the Fairtrade International was formed to oversee the labeling of products sold as fair trade goods. It consists of two major independent parts, which are FLO International and FLO-CERT. FLO International is dedicated to maintaining the standards behind certifying products as fair trade. Participation includes independent experts, participating member organizations, producers and traders, to ensure transparency. FLO-CERT is the organization that certifies organizations and products, as well as enforces compliance with Fairtrade International's standards.
By 1998, a number of fair trade organizations started to collaborate to promote the idea of fair trade around the world. Fair trade organizations exist in every major region of the world, from Asia to South America and Africa. These include the Network of European Worldshops, and European Fair Trade Association. Combined with FLO International and the WFTO, they formed the umbrella organization known as FINE, which has operated from its office in Brussels, Belgium since 2004.
In 2001, the town of Garstang in Lancashire, England, became the world's first town dedicated entirely to Fair Trade. Media, Pennsylvania, became the Fair Trade Town in the United States, and as of 2010 there were over 600 Fair Trade towns around the world. In addition, educational institutions have lent their support to the Fair Trade movement. England's Oxford Brookes University became the first higher education institution to dedicate itself to Fair Trade in 2003, and the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh joined the cause in 2008.
Global awareness of the cause of fair trade has steadily increased since the movement began. According to certain polling organizations such as Market and Opinion Research International, one out of every two adults in England are aware of the concept of fair trade. In addition, consumer awareness of fair trade is equally prevalent in the United States. Many major grocery store chains in the United States and Europe sell products that bear the Fair Trade label.
~Fair Trade University: History: The University of Fair Trade page for the University of Wisconsin OshKosh. This page gives a brief summary of the history of the fair trade movement.
~The History of Fair Trade: This page reviews the history of the fair trade movement, including its history in Northeast Ohio.
~Mount Holyoke: History of Fair Trade: An overview of fair trade, its history and growth.
~Fair Trade Terms: A very brief overview of fair trade in terms of North America and Europe. This overview is on the Fair Trade USA website.
~About Fair Trade: A Fair Trade Federation that discusses what fair trade is about and its history.
Fair Trade in North America
There are a wide variety of products that are available under the fair trade label for customers. Coffee is a common good sold through fair trade markets; however, shoppers can purchase many other types of products, from foods to arts and crafts. These range from bananas, almonds and olive oil, to spices, chocolates and confectionaries. Customers looking for fair trade products can also buy jewelry, clothes, home decor, hygiene-related products, musical instruments, furniture, pottery, sculptures, and fashion accessories such as handbags. Products that are certified as fair trade are guaranteed to be made in safe working conditions and by processes that are friendly to the environment.
Fair trade has reached mainstream acceptance in North America. In a 2010 poll, Green N Brown found that a third of people polled in the United States were not only aware of the concept of fair trade, but could also recognize fair trade-certified products. In Canada over 80% of people who have seen products bearing the fair trade label have purchased at least one such product in a six-month period, according to Fairtrade Canada. Sales of fair trade products in the United States and Canada reached nearly $1 billion by 2006, an over 100% improvement from 2004, according to studies by the Fair Trade Federation. The primary barrier to the increased growth of the popularity of fair trade products is their cost and their lower availability, which comes from the fact that fair trade goods are not manufactured by factories or factory labor.
~Fair Trade Products and Producers: A review of fair trade products listed on the Green America website. Clicking on the link provides information on the producer of the specific product.
~Report on Trends in the North American Fair Trade Market: A report written by the Fair Trade Federation regarding trends in the North American market. Includes statistics and an overview of fair trade organizations.
~Why Domestic Fair Trade?: A page on the Domestic Fair Trade Association that discusses the needs of North American farmers. Encourages the use domestic fair trade in addition to international fair trade.
~Fairtrade International Consumer Perceptions Survey: A Fair Trade Canada consumer perception survey. This PDF includes studies and statistics regarding Canadians and fair trade.
~Fair Trade in the North: Reviews the needs of North American farmers and the need for domestic fair trade. This page appears on the Fair World Project website.
Benefits of Fair Trade
Fair trade offers benefits not only for customers, but also those who grow food and manufacture products, as well as the environment. Certification standards require that farm workers must be represented in a democratic environment similar to unions. In addition, fair trade producers must follow standards with regards to water conservation, and the management of forests and other natural resources that must be used for production. They must also avoid using chemicals that are listed as hazardous to the environment, as well as genetically modified crops. Farmers are protected from potentially wild swings in world market prices, which prevents them from being driven out of business if prices collapse. Those who produce fair trade goods are given an additional premium payment which is distributed democratically to help with investments in health care or farming technology improvements. The ultimate benefit of the fair trade is that it helps customers and workers create an economic system that is free from human exploitation and environmental degradation.
~Benefits of Fair Trade: A Fair Trade International page that outlines how everyone benefits from fair trade. This page also lists five ways that producers benefit from fair trade.
~Fair Trade Africa - Benefits of Fair Trade: The benefits of fair trade are outlined on the Fair Trade Africa website. Benefits that are reviewed include trading relationships, empowerment and environmental management.
~Fair Trade and Free Entry: Examining Producer Benefits: A PDF from the University of Wisconsin that examines who benefits from fair trade. An in-depth look and assessment of certification, welfare gains and chances to improve.
~Impact of Your Purchase: This page on the Global Goods Partners website lists three ways in which buying fair trade benefits women and people who live in poverty.
~Your Morning Cup Can Have a Global Impact: A brief explanation on how fair trade certified coffee benefits farmers in terms of credit and technical assistance.
How You Can Join the Movement
Anyone who buys fair trade certified goods is participating in the fair trade movement in the most important way possible. Shoppers can also look online for stores that sell fair trade certified foods and craft items. In addition, activists can push for their city to dedicate itself to promoting Fair Trade by becoming a Fair Trade Town. World Fair Trade Day is another way to participate in the movement. This is an event celebrated on the second Saturday of May and it is meant to raise global awareness of the concept of fair trade. Concerned people can host fair trade art shows, cooking competitions, and even hold concerts. In addition, students can create fair trade clubs in high schools and colleges, to raise awareness among their peers. Essentially, the best way to join the movement is to buy fair trade products and to help others become more informed about the benefits and goals of fair trade.
~Ten Ways to Get Involved: Partners for Just Trade outlines ten ways that people can get involved in the fair trade movement. These tips range from self-education to involvement in schools.
~Fair Trade Campaign – How Can You Get Involved?: Five steps on how to get involved in fair trade are outlined on the Plan International USA website.
~Get Involved: A page on the Ten Thousand Village website that explains how consumers can get involved in fair trade by shopping fair trade stores such as Ten Thousand Villages or by planning community sale festivals.
~How to Take Action: A page on the website for the Fair Trade Resource Network that lists how people can take action and get involved with fair trade. This page reviews Fair Trade day as well as sending letters to Representatives and bringing trade to cities and schools.
~World Fair Trade Day: The website for World Fair Trade Day, which is celebrated annually on the second Saturday of May. Visitors can learn how to participate in the festival, as well as how to contribute to the Fair Trade movement.
~Get Involved: Oxfam's resource guide on how to contribute to the fair trade movement. Includes information on organizing events, festival ideas, clothes donations, and political activism.