Fair Trade products can be found mainly on the shelves of organic and healthy food stores, although more and more retail chains are introducing them to the offered range.
Various food products often made in Africa or South America are bearing the small Fairtrade International logo, and their prices are often higher than similar products without this label, which certainly discourages many consumers from buying them. However, knowing the origin of products like coffee, tea, organic cocoa powder or cane sugar, and the idea of Fair Trade can make many of them change their mind.
Products that comply with Fair Trade rules must follow straight principles at all stages of the supply chain. What requirements must they meet to receive a Fair Trade certificate? What exactly is Fair Trade? And why do we, the customers, need to buy certified products?
Fair Trade is an international organization aimed at helping the development of small producers (farmers, craftsmen) which creates an independent trading system on a global scale. The main rule is that recognition of man is more important than profit. Fair Trade contributes to equality in international trade by establishing fair wages and social conditions for the producers, especially in the countries of the Global South.
The concept of Fair Trade prevents marginalization in the global economy. This applies primarily to developing countries, where the main goal is the protection of rights in the workplace and to make producers and employees obtain an honorable share of the overall profit. Fair Trade principles include transparency, reasonable price for products, honesty and respect in commercial relations. It is a partnership based on dialogue which strengthens small and medium-sized enterprises by promoting a strong economy at the local and national level.
Fairtrade is also a system of certification and marking of products that make them recognizable by consumers. Fairtrade International manages the Fairtrade certification system, which consists of setting Fair Trade standards, like adequate social conditions, and helping to achieve them. Fair Trade mark on product packaging serves the promotion purposes of certified goods. Producers can use the mark based on the obtained license, which is granted for specific products, and not for the entire production of the company.
Fair Trade is not the only label we can find on coffee, tea or cocoa packaging. Others appear, such as the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ certificate (in 2017 these two merged in recognition of their similar values). Consumers are wondering which of them to trust, and companies often calculate which one is best to apply for their product. Each of these markings has a slightly different approach to certification, and all of them received high marks when it comes to social criteria, so there are no significant differences between them.
The Rainforest Alliance was created as a response to the need to protect rainforests and biodiversity. UTZ cares that high-quality products are produced in a sustainable way. On the other hand, Fairtrade International is focused on strengthening the position of small producers.
For every cup of coffee you drink in a restaurant, the producer only receives a small fraction of its price, which is not enough for coffee, tea and cocoa plantation workers to educate or provide medical care to their children.
By buying Fair Trade products, we can contribute to reducing poverty and the harmful effects of human activities. Fair Trade provides an equitable price for products, which contributes to a stable source of income for producers, who thus can support their children.
Moreover, Fair Trade provides work and a source of income for those who live on the margins of society, usually in the countries of the Global South. They are especially women and disabled people. In these underdeveloped regions, poverty reduction requires emphasizing the importance of human rights, eliminating slavery, forced labor and child labor.
Fair Trade standards and principles take into account environmental protection and promote sustainable development through the use of environmentally-friendly farming methods. The most crucial principles related to environmental protection are:
Supporting producers who are part of Fair Trade is not a charity; it is the choice of an informed and responsible customer. It is also being aware of the difficulties and inequalities that exist in global trade relations, appreciating the value and dignity of employees from other countries in the world. We should buy products with the Fairtrade logo so that the welfare and health of employees and the state of the environment in which they perform their work are protected and respected.