What does “fair” really mean?
The word “fair” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Fair trade is about more than just paying a fair wage. It means that trading partnerships are based on reciprocal benefits and mutual respect; that prices paid to producers reflect the work they do; that producers share decision making power; that national health, safety, and wage laws are enforced; and that products are environmentally sustainable and conserve natural resources.
How do I know that a product is fair trade?
The Fair Trade Federation screens and verifies companies that are fully committed to fair trade. These organizations don’t just buy and sell a few fair trade products; they integrate fair trade practices into everything they do. These organizations have a deep level of commitment to fair trade practices and maintain long term relationships with small producer organizations.
You will also see some products in the marketplace that carry a fair trade certification seal. Fair trade certification involves a worksite audit and a 10% fair trade premium. These labels increasingly focus on large factories and farms. They are often used by multi-national brands who cannot be fully fair trade but wish to improve some of their practices.
Do fair trade goods cost more than comparable non-fair trade goods?
Generally, goods sold by FTF members cost the same or a few percent more than similar quality, conventional goods. These fair trade products don’t cost more because the large percentage taken by middle people is removed from the equation. The cost remains the same as conventionally traded goods; however, more of the sale price goes to producers.
In the case of agricultural goods, is the quality comparable to conventional products?
In some cases the quality is actually higher because fair trade organizations factor in the environmental cost of production. For instance, in the case of coffee, fairly traded coffee is often organic and shade grown, which results in a higher quality coffee.
What is a fair wage?
Producers receive a fair wage when they are paid fairly for their products. This means that workers are paid a living wage, which enables them to cover basic needs, including food, shelter, education and health care for their families. Paying fair wages does not necessarily mean that products cost the consumer more. FTF members bypass exploitative middle people and work directly with producers.
How much money (percent of sale price) do the artisans make?
Living wages vary widely between regions of the world and individual communities. Therefore, there is no set percentage given to artisans. Rather, open communication ensures that pricing is transparent and meets the full needs of artisans. A fair trade relationship is a true partnership, allowing all to make a fair profit margin.
Why do FTF members support cooperative workplaces?
Cooperatives and producer associations provide a healthy alternative to large-scale manufacturing and sweatshop conditions, where unprotected workers earn below minimum wage and most of the profits flow to foreign investors and local elites who have little interest in ensuring the long term health of the communities in which they work. FTF members work with small businesses, worker-owned and democratically run cooperatives and associations which bring significant benefits to workers and their communities. By banding together, workers are able to access credit, reduce raw material costs and establish higher and more just prices for their products. Workers earn a greater return on their labor, and profits are distributed more equitably and often reinvested in community projects such as health clinics, child care, education, and literacy training. Workers learn important leadership and organizing skills, enabling self-reliant grassroots-driven development.
How do FTF members offer financial support to producers?
Small-scale farmers and artisans in the developing world lack access to affordable financing, impeding their profitability. FTF members buy products directly from producers and provide advance payment or pre-harvest financing. Unlike many commercial importers who often wait 60-90 days before paying producers, FTF members ensure pre-payment so that producers have sufficient funds to cover raw materials and basic needs during production.
How do FTF members offer technical support to producers?
FTF members provide critical technical assistance and support such as market information, organizational development and training in financial management. Unlike conventional importers, FTF members establish long term relationships with their producers and help them adapt production to changing trends.