When shopping for food, you may notice some of the packaging is labeled with a "Fair Trade" logo. Read on to find out why you should pay attention to these labels when deciding which foods to buy.
What is Fair Trade?
Put simply, the Fair Trade movement advocates for higher payments to the producers of our food such as farmers and laborers, and to promote improved environmental and social standards in the food industry.
Fair Trade strives to achieve better trading conditions for producers in developing countries by promoting greater equity in international trade through dialogue, transparency, and respect between everyone involved in trade. The international market often favors artificially low prices at the expense of the farmers, fishermen, and laborers who work to produce these products. Fair Trade certifiers try to create a more equitable system in which the most vulnerable are not taken advantage of by promoting the payment of fair prices to those who produce this internationally traded food. Fair Trade organizations are also engaged in actively supporting producers through education and investment in new technology, raising awareness about the importance of sustainable wages for producers, and campaigning for changes in how international trade is carried out.
Fair Trade is backed by the consumer and can only continue to be impactful if consumers are aware of its importance. Buying fair trade products supports sustainable development and helps farmers provide a living and education for themselves and their family. There are a few different certifiers of Fair Trade products, including Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade International.
Fair Trade USA
Fair Trade USA's mission is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment through global trade that benefits the farmers and workers. Their main function is to certify and promote fair trade products. According to their website, Fair Trade USA purchases have sent $610 million to farmers and workers since Fair Trade USA was founded in 1998.
"From poverty to climate change to struggles with health and safety, people all over the world face incredible challenges simply trying to earn a living. To compete in today’s market, businesses drive down prices at the expense of those most vulnerable: farmers, workers, and fishermen. This simply can’t go on. Shopping fair trade means taking a stand for a system that treats everyone with respect" - Fair Trade USA
Fairtrade International is another Fair Trade product certifier. They strive to change the way international trade is conducted by promoting better prices, decent working conditions for workers, and fairer deals between distributors and producers in developing countries. Their approach allows farmers to invest in their future by providing a more sustainable wage.
Fairtrade International addresses key issues of child labor, climate change, farmer livelihoods, environmental impacts, forced labor, gender equality, human rights, workers rights, and sustainable development.
"Zero hunger starts with paying farmers a fair price. While consumers eat more than US$100 billion worth of chocolate each year and drink two billion cups of coffee every day, many farmers struggle to make a decent living." -Fairtrade International
UVA has a Fair Trade Campaign called "Fair Trade on Grounds". UVA Green Dining works to promote fair trade options in dining locations on grounds. A quote from UVA's Fair Trade Campaign Website sums up their ultimate goal regarding fair trade:
"U.Va. Dining strives to educate students on the power of purchase to create a sustainable future for our local and global community – a world that is environmentally sound, economically viable, and socially responsible"
We should all take that valuable message to heart and realize the power that our purchases have in the global economy.
UVA Dining has many Fair Trade Products throughout grounds, such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, fresh coffee, and chocolate. Look for the fair trade logo and check out the UVA Fair Trade Campaign website for more information: https://fairtradecampaigns.org/campaign/university-of-virginia-fair-trade-on-grounds/
Buying Fair Trade has been, and continues to be important. Climate change will likely bring higher temperatures, droughts, floods, crop disease, and soil erosion to agricultural lands. These effects further threaten the livelihood of farmers, fishermen and laborers, and they will also threaten our food security. According to fairtrade.net, 80% of the world's food comes from about 500 million small-scale farms. We must support these small-scale farms through fair trade and responsible purchasing. Purchasing Fair Trade is a very simply way to help address global equity and environmental issues.
These Fair Trade organizations have great information about the importance of Fair Trade, the impacts of Fair Trade products, and certified products. I encourage you to check out their websites to learn more.