The Truth Behind Fair Trade - the movement that changed the world for good.

We have seen posts about the Fashion Revolution Week, and have maybe even seen articles about fair trade Day this past weekend, but… how much do we really know about the fair trade movement? Buzzy words like these are hard to keep track of, so let us break it down for you.

Believe it or not, the fair trade movement dates back all the way to the 1950’s, when the United States, the UK, and the Dutch began trading with lower income countries, all in the name to support their economies and give them a chance to participate in World trade and experience prosperity. Fair trade at this time was mostly crafts, supplying supplemental income for families, but quickly began to include crops, such as coffee, sugar cane, spices, etc. By the 60’s and 70’s, there were NGOs around the world facilitating trade between these countries, and working by the idea that trade would boost economic growth without giving direct aid. 

The fair trade movement continued to develop with each passing year, becoming more established and professional, and creating resources and networks to progress. Countries hosted conferences, organizations sprouted, and awareness grew. By the 1990’s, there were organizations around the world that would monitor and accredit certain companies, and the first fair trade label was developed.

Since the first seed of fair trade was planted over 60 years ago, fair trade has developed into a widespread movement. Thanks to the efforts of fair trade organizations worldwide, fair trade has gained recognition among politicians, mainstream businesses, and even consumers. These organizations are committed to ensuring high standards, from farming, production, and trade. One of the most prominent organizations and labels in this movement is the World Fair Trade Organization, and they outline their 10 principles they hold every single company with their label to. These include the following:

  • Opportunities for Disadvantaged Producers
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Fair Trade Practices
  • Fair Payment
  • No Child Labor or Forced Labor
  • No Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Freedom of Association
  • Good Working Conditions
  • Capacity Building
  • Promote Fair Trade (beyond their own businesses)
  • Respect for the Environment

Although these are quite high level, it proves that the movement covers much more than just fair trade practices, but is in the best interest of all the humans involved in the whole process, as well as the Earth. These lower income countries and less developed economies are vulnerable to slave-like labor exploitation, unlivable wages and conditions, extremely long hours, and illegal trade and bargaining practices, and it is up to the fair trade movement to prevent this.The movement’s momentum began in the farming and produce industry, however it has now expanded into the textile and fashion industry, as well. In fact, the Fashion Industry is made up of 80% women workers, and due to the gender discrimination females have experienced in the past and today, a form of fair trade standard or high social standards certification is vital for their right to work in a safe environment and get paid fairly. 

So how does this affect you and your shopping habits? Look for a fair trade label! There are many organizations in this movement, so do your research on the label at hand, and ensure they are accredited and transparent in their work. From coffee beans, bananas, to yoga pants and bathing suits, you can make the decision to support fair trade practices. With each purchase of a certified product, you are combating poverty, standing up for workers’ rights, fighting child labor, promoting gender equality, and protecting the environment. 


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