What is Fairtrade anyway?

By Anneka Bosse – The Brock Press

There are many ways that Fairtrade contributes to social and environmental sustainability. It is essentially a social movement that empowers consumers to create social change with their purchases.

The Fairtrade system focuses on fair wages, workers’ rights and environmental practices. It provides an alternative to traditional trading, which does not always consider these important factors.

When faced with the option of buying Fairtrade products, many people are unclear of where the money goes. There are actually two main ways the money is used: the workers’ fair wage and the Fairtrade premium.Brock Fair Trade

The Fairtrade wage is determined prior to production, based on several factors including production costs, extent of labour contributed and local economic conditions. If the global market fluctuates, then the Fairtrade producers are not affected because their wage cannot drop below a certain minimum. At the same time, if the market price rises, Fairtrade producers are always given the higher price.

Workers’ livelihood is therefore protected from changing market trends.

On top of the fair wages, additional money is given to the producer’s community, called the Fairtrade premium. The premium is what really sets Fairtrade apart from similar initiatives and charities because it is used for community development projects. The community democratically decides where to spend the money, for instance, on education, health care, business development or anything else the community feels would benefit them the most. The Fairtrade premium can be seen as empowering because the communities are given the choice of where their money goes instead of others making the decisions for them.

Another important aspect about Fairtrade is that it respects workers’ rights. In an atmosphere where fairness and decency is key, the people are more important than the profit made. With people being a main priority, child labour is not tolerated, women are empowered and safe working conditions are administered, among other ethical practices. Additionally, workers are encouraged to form co-operatives, which are similar to unions, as a way to benefit their overall success.

In order to promote environmental sustainability, Fairtrade uses many environmental practices in its production. Less pesticides and fertilizers are used in farming practices and instead are replaced with more natural and sustainable techniques. As a result, most Fairtrade products are also organically certified.

Handcrafted items also adhere to environmental practices by using materials that are locally available, fast growing, renewable and recyclable. Fairtrade products often packaged in recyclable and/or biodegradable packaging to help minimize the impact products have on the environment.

There is no single approach to Fairtrade, but all incorporate these basic fair and sustainable practices in order to meet Fair Trade Certification. It means different things to different people and each producer has their own way of going about Fairtrade. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to become informed and discover which approach makes the most sense to them.

No matter which approach is taken, fairness, decency and sustainability are at the core of Fairtrade. By choosing Fairtrade products, you are making a difference in the World.
For more information about Fairtrade visit yourbrock.org/fairtrade or contact fairtrade@busu.net.

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