Fair Trade-Lifestyle not a Trend by Rahel Mwitula Williams
If you have ever read anything by me, you know that I am all about a “lifestyle”. I’ve tried to incorporate the concept of lifestyle through how I practice my faith, giving and ideologies. As much as I will entertain trends, they don’t move me to make a transformative decision in my life. When it comes to a lifestyle versus a trend, it can be a double-edged sword. Not everything in life should be a lifestyle. I am grateful that certain things were just trendy. Nevertheless, one can only hope that certain things in our lives should be a lifestyle. Personally, I have listed Fair Trade at the top. If I ruled the world and had influence on business models, every business would operate under the principle of Fair Trade.
Fair Trade is a global movement to improve the lives of farmers and workers in the global south by ensuring that they have access to export markets and are paid a fair price for their products.
According to Peter Bondarenko, “those objectives are often achieved by establishing direct trading relationships between small-scale producers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and fair-trade organizations (FTOs) in the United States and Europe, thereby eliminating intermediary buyers and sellers. A subsidiary goal of the movement in developed countries is to increase consumer awareness of unjust and unfair international trade practices, (2018)
The following are the governing principles of Fair Trade Organizations, of which I would hope become a part of our overall business lifestyle:
Long-Term Direct Trading Relationships
Payment of Fair Prices
No Child, Forced or Otherwise Exploited Labor Workplace
Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Freedom of Association
Democratic & Transparent Organizations
Safe Working Conditions & Reasonable Work Hours
Investment in Community Development Projects
Traceability and Transparency
Thanks to these principles, since the 1940’s the fair trade movement has changed the trajectory of global south workers and their families by connecting them with access to the market outside of their countries. One would think that the principles and policies of fair trade would be a moral and ethical obligation, but as we know neither morals nor ethics were ever driving factors of our humanity. Indeed, we have multiple economic models and the beauty of the world is having freedom of choice, but one would think a policy and principle that would oppress and not provide one with fair economic freedom would not be exercised.
For example, the Ivory coast is the world’s largest cocoa producer (think about it the next time you eat Swiss and Belgian chocolates). An average cocoa farmer in the Ivory coast makes around $2,000 per year (equating to approximately 93 cents per day, per person) less than a dollar a day. The chocolate industry is worth around $100 billion dollars. Now, I am not a mathematician or economist, but I am human with morals and ethics and there is something fundamentally wrong with these numbers. When the place where 40% of the world’s cocoa is grown and produced makes less than $2,000 per year, but the chocolate industry averages more than $100 billion in profit.. something is askew. Now, call it capitalism all you want, but this is inhumane. Fair trade makes an attempt to bring humanity back into this part of the world.
Nevertheless, there are those who came against the movement of fair trade arguing that they used fair trade principles as marketing tools to lure consumers, which I have personally witnessed. Additionally, due to the competitive nature of capitalism, big corporations, big businesses ( e.g. cocoa) have emerged in poor countries to compete against local fair-trade products to the detriment of workers.
Now, I am not a mathematician or economist, but I am human with morals and ethics and there is something fundamentally wrong with these numbers when the place where 40% of the world’s cocoa is grown and produced makes less than $2,000 per year, but the chocolate industry average more than $100 billion in profit. Now, call it capitalism all you want, but this is inhumane. Fair trade makes an attempt to bring humanity back into this part of our world.
Nevertheless, there are those who came against the movement of fair trade because arguing that they used fair trade principles as marketing tools to lure consumers, which I have personally witnessed. Additionally, due to the competitive nature of capitalism, big corporations e.g cocoa and big businesses have emerged in poor countries to compete against local fair-trade products to the detriment of workers. Indeed, every movement has its imperfections and fair trade is not exempt. However the imperfections of this movement are manageable compared to the non-existence of this movement. As consumers we have the power to make it even better. The next time you’re at your favorite coffee shop, chocolate store, clothing store, etc. ask them if they are members of fair trade. At times, a change begins with just this simple question.