Modern*Simplicity

Creating a Life Free From Chaos

Fair Trade 101

You’ve probably seen products in the store marked “Fair Trade.” But what does that mean? Simply put, the Fair Trade system seeks to pay fair wages to workers, support healthy and respectable workplaces, and ensure environmental sustainability. Fair trade also offers public accountability for a company’s treatment of their workers, respects the local cultural identity where the items were produced and educates consumers as to production practices in the different parts of the world that our goods are produced.

Fair wages are determined by a host of factors, including the amount of time, skill and effort involved in the production of the products, as well as minimum and living wages in the local area where the products were produced, the purchasing power in a community or area, and other costs of living in the local area. Wages are designed to provide fair compensation based on the true cost of production in the community they’re produced.

Consumers can choose fair trade clothing, coffee, food, furniture, home décor, housewares, jewelry, tea, toys, personal accessories and many other products. Fair trade is about keeping prices affordable for consumers while returning a higher percentage of the price back to the people who actually made the items. Fair traders typically work directly with artisans and farmers, cutting out the middlemen who increase the price.

Fair trade also makes a tremendous impact on communities. Since more money is going back to the people who made the products, the community is better financially suited to pay for children’s education as well as meeting nutritional needs and covering health care costs. The poor, especially women, are empowered, and the environmental impact of production, sourcing, and transport is mitigated to the fullest extent possible. Fair trade is about more than the individuals, it’s about the community and production process as a whole.

There are two types of organizations involved in fair trade. Some certify specific products, regardless of to whom they are sold, while others screen organizations for their full commitment to fair trade, regardless of what products they sell. Member organizations of the Fair Trade Federation may have the words “Member of the Fair Trade Federation” on their products. The Fairtrade Labelling Organization and its North American affiliates, TransFair USA and TransFair Canada, also allow their label on the products they have certified. Look for these labels on the products you buy to ensure fair trade standards have been met.

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