It’s no secret that shopping ethically can be confusing. Labels are often misleading and it’s hard to know what brands you can actually trust. One way you can clear up some of this confusion is to look for products that are Fairtrade.
What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade USA as we know it today was started in the 1990’s by Paul Rice. It began with products such as coffee, bananas and tea, but has now broadened to many more items, perhaps most notably, chocolate. At its core Fairtrade is a guarantee that a product was created in an ethical, safe way. This includes living wages for workers, safe working conditions, no forced or child labor, gender equality, and secure relationships with buyers. Fairtrade also includes a fairtrade premium; money in addition to the product selling price which can be invested in a business or project of the community's choice. In India, a group of workers chose to purchase bikes for employees, and in Sri Lanka a group chose to build a daycare next to their factory.
Why does Fairtrade Matter?
By ensuring fair prices, treatment, and trade, Fairtrade empowers farmers to advocate for their rights and take more control of their lives. This can make a world of difference for workers in rural communities. Just imagine the contrast between working to live and living to work! In addition to protection for farmers, Fairtrade sets standards for environmental sustainability. By choosing to consume Fairtrade products you are investing in the health of both farmers and the planet.
How Does a Company Get Fairtrade Certified?
It’s not easy to slap a Fairtrade label on a product. In order to become Fairtrade certified a company must complete a rigorous certification process that can range anywhere from 6-9 months and includes screenings, inspections, and on-site visits. After being approved, the company must still undergo regular inspections and audits. Independent certifiers, auditors, traders, and companies work together to approve company applications in accordance with the same economic, social, and environmental standards. When you see the Fairtrade label you can trust that multiple eyes went into assessing the ethicality of that product.
Although Fairtrade is by no means perfect, buying a Fairtrade-certified product is worlds better than the status quo. However, it doesn’t just stop there. Consider also keeping an eye out for B-Corp Certified companies, USDA Organic labels, and 1% for the planet members. Choosing to buy from companies with certifications like these isn’t just a consumer decision, it’s an investment in a better, more equitable world.