What is Fair Trade?

Absolutely, fair wages are a fundamental aspect of Fair Trade, but the Fair Trade movement extends beyond just fair pay. It encompasses a broader set of principles and practices aimed at creating a positive and lasting impact on artisans, their communities, and the environment. Here is a summary of the meaning of Fair Trade and some ways in which Fair Trade practices go above and beyond to ensure significant benefits for artisan partners and their communities:

  1. Cultivate New Market Opportunities

Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development through trading partnerships. Members collaborate with marginalized communities to nurture equitable social and economic opportunities by growing market access. Members place the interests of producers and their communities as the primary concern of their enterprise.

  1. Develop Transparent & Accountable Relationships

Fair Trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent, respectful, and value an equitable distribution of power. Members are transparent with customers and producers about their supply chains by sharing information about the entire trading chain through honest and proactive communication. They create mechanisms to actively involve producers and customers in the trading chain. If problems arise, members work cooperatively with fair trade partners and other organizations to implement solutions.

  1. Build Capacity

Fair Trade is a means to support producers’ self-sustainability and access to markets. Members maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect. Members collaborate with producers to build capacity through proactive communication, knowledge exchange, financial and technical assistance, market information, and dialogue. They seek to share lessons learned, to share best practices, and nurture collaborative relationships with and between communities, including among producer groups.

  1. Promote Fair Trade

Fair Trade encourages an understanding by all participants of their role in world trade. Members actively raise awareness about Fair Trade and the possibility of greater justice in the global economic system. They encourage customers and producers to ask questions about conventional and alternative supply chains and to make informed choices. Members demonstrate that trade can be a positive force for improving living standards, health, education, the distribution of power, and the environment in the communities with which they work.

  1. Pay Promptly and Fairly

Fair Trade members use pricing frameworks based on the true cost of labor, time, materials, skill level, training, sustainable growth, and related factors. Members take steps to ensure that producers have the capacity to manage this process. Members comply with or exceed international, national, local, and, where applicable, Fair Trade Minimum standards for their employees and producers. Members seek to ensure that income is distributed equitably at all times, particularly equal pay for equal work by all. Members ensure prompt payment to all of their partners. Producers are offered access to interest-free advance payment for handmade goods, or pre-finance of agricultural harvest with favorable industry-specific terms. 

  1. Support Safe & Empowering Working Conditions

Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced, exploitative, or underpaid labor. Throughout the trading chain, Members cultivate inclusive workplaces that encourage individuals to participate in the decisions that affect them. Members seek to eliminate discrimination based on religion, race, caste, national origin, disability, gender, sexual/affectional orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status. Members support workplaces free from physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.

  1. Ensure the Rights of Children

Fair trade means that all children have the right to security, education, and play. Throughout the trading chain, FTF Members respect and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms. Members disclose the involvement of children in production and recognize that individuals often pass down their skillsets and traditions through generations, so there may be circumstances in which children are involved in production. Members have open communication with suppliers/producers about ways children may be involved and ensure that this does not conflict with educational opportunities when this occurs. Members do not support or in any way enable child trafficking or exploitative child labor.  

  1. Cultivate Environmental Stewardship

Fair trade seeks to offer current generations the ability to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Members actively consider the implications of their decisions on the environment and promote the responsible stewardship of resources. Members reduce, reuse, reclaim, recycle, and regenerate materials wherever possible. They encourage environmentally sustainable practices throughout the entire trading chain. 

  1. Respect Cultural, Racial, and Ethnic Identity

Fair trade celebrates the cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity of communities. Members work collaboratively with suppliers/artisans/producer groups to integrate traditional techniques and elements to support community-led cultural preservation initiatives. Members actively engage in open, collaborative, and honest conversations to create positive and equitable relationships within the trading system, and proactively address any concerns about the objectification or appropriation of cultural identities, traditions, techniques, and/or elements. 

In essence, Fair Trade represents a values-driven approach to commerce that seeks to create a win-win situation for both producers and consumers. It's not just about buying products; it's about making a positive difference in the world through conscious consumer choices. This approach resonates with individuals and businesses that prioritize ethical and sustainable practices in their purchasing decisions.