Have You Shopped For
Choosing fair trade products is your opportunity to do good things with your shopping dollars. If you are looking to buy clothing, jewelry, accessories, bath or beauty products, items for the home and garden, crafts or maybe coffee, tea or chocolate, all these could be bought as fair trade products.
Understanding fair trade is important if you are concerned about where
and how your products are made.
The idea for fair trade is simple. Treat people with respect, pay a living wage so that they can have a decent chance to cover their needs for food, housing, education or medical care. If all companies worked to meet these basic standards what an improvement over the present way of doing things. This should be the way things are done but unfortunately this is far from the reality of many people.
Fair Trade FederationSome companies have made a commitment and joined organizations like the Fair Trade Federation where members not only offer fair wages but also:
Companies who seek fair trade certification make efforts to understand the needs of the people who produce fair trade products and offer what ever help they can to the individual and the community.
As you can imagine it gives people, many of them women who are mothers and sole wage earners, from all over the world an opportunity to provide better futures for themselves and their families and gives them a voice in their communities.
Much of the control of the production, trade and retailing of products around the world is in the hands of only a small number of corporations and one way they do business is to increase profits by keeping costs low. It is in their best interests to offer products at the lowest price possible and that often means offering the lowest compensation for goods or services. In order to stay competitive other companies do the same.
This may be good for business but at some point as a thoughtful shopper you may question if your ability to buy something cheaply is at too great of a cost to others.
What About Sweatshop Free?
Fair trade certification goes a long way to ensuring people receive fair treatment but doesn't apply to those employed by companies large and small all over the world who also suffer with poor and unsafe conditions. Sweatshop conditions are commonly found in the clothing and manufacturing industries but can occur in any business needing cheap labor.
Fortunately, there has been interest in sweatshop free clothing within the fashion industry as people like Bono and and his wife, Ali Hewson, join clothing designer Rogan Gregory to create a clothing line, Edun, that operates on sound business and ethical practices.
Their factories are inspected personally and approved by the Edun team. According to the Edun website "The company aims to bring the issue of sustainable employment to the world of catwalks and high fashion." Bono uses his celebrity to help to bring these ideas to the fashion community.
When companies make commitments like this people in countries like Africa, South America or India, may see benefits like training, employment with livable wages, safe work environments and community improvements.
What Can You Do?
Businesses are beginning to respond by offering fair trade products. My experience locally in my mid sized city is that fair trade products are available mainly through stores like Whole Foods where I can find fair trade food items like coffee, tea and chocolate along with some clothing and gift items.
Your best way to make a difference is to shop online where fair trade items are easily found and the selections are greatest. Entire shops committed to just fair trade provide all kinds of interesting and unique products.
The Fair Trade Federation website offers a wide variety of fair trade products. Here you will find businesses that carry the Fair Trade Federation Logo. Your reassurance that you are buying from companies who follow the guidelines of fair trade.
The Fair Trade Directory published by Handmade Expressions offers a thorough resource that make it easy to understand the various fair trade labels you will see on products along with info about many different products and companies that are engaged in fair trade practices.
Other Ways to Shop for Fair Trade Products
Much sought after and creative products are made by using the resources of a region like shea nuts that are used for making shea butter, a very popular moisturizer or they are created by artisans following traditional methods to create unique, beautiful, handcrafted fair trade products. Often you will be able to learn about the community, the grower or the artisan involved along with details about the construction, materials or ingredients.
When shopping for gifts consider something different. How about looking for fair trade gift items? It is surprising what can be found that will give you the opportunity to give a high quality handcrafted item with a story behind it that will be appreciated for years.
Personally, I have found that when I make the effort to be more thoughtful with my purchases, they have more meaning and I feel I save money in the long run with high quality purchases that provide real value both for myself and for those that produce them.
This also lets companies know that I support what they are doing. If more of us make the effort to request and purchase fair trade products we could begin to see real improvements in the lives of many people around the world.
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