As I’ve traveled on my journey to spread the fair trade word, I’ve run into a number of pre-conceived notions about fair trade that keep cropping up. Lots of others have tackled these misconceptions, but I thought I’d add my two cents worth, too. Here are some of the more prevalent fictions about fair trade and facts to clear them up:
1. Fair trade is only for farmers.
- While coffee was the first agricultural product certified as fair trade in 1988, fair trade handicrafts have been sold since 1946.
- There’s a huge range of non-food fair trade products on the market, from home and personal accessories to soccer balls, clothing, shoes, furniture and toys.
2. Fair trade products are expensive.
- Yes, producers and artisans are paid more compared with their local economy to assure they have a sustainable & reliable income.
- But there are far fewer middlemen than with mass-produced products, where middlemen take a generous portion of the profits and often exploit the workers.
- Fair trade retailers and suppliers work to keep margins reasonable so the price to consumers is reasonable.
3. Fair trade products are poor quality and unfashionable.
- On the contrary, because they’re handcrafted with care, the quality of fair trade products is often superior to mass-produced items.
- Contemporary designs are married with indigenous craftsmanship to create goods that will stand up against those in any high-end boutique.
4. Fair trade is charity.
- Fair trade handicrafts are made by some of the poorest women in the world. Many are victims of abuse or trafficking. Fair trade gives them sustainable, reliable income, skills training and education.
- This positive and long-term change gives them the power and independence they need so they cannot be taken advantage of again. It’s a hand up, not a handout.
5. Fair trade is a brand or marketing tactic.
- Fair trade is an international movement that began over 60 years ago. It seeks to balance the scale for the world’s most desperately impoverished people.
- A number of organizations such as the World Fair Trade Organization, Fairtrade Labeling Organization, and the Fair Trade Federation certify various links in the fair trade supply chain to assure they adhere to established fair trade principles.
6. Free trade is fair trade.
- Free trade is global trade whereby companies search for the cheapest labor and most lenient regulations regarding labor and the environment.
- Fair trade attempts to address the drawbacks of free trade by insisting on standards in the global trading system, such as fair pay, safeguarding children’s rights, protecting the environment, and transparency throughout all aspects of the trading network, among others.
- For a more complete comparison, see “Free Trade Is Not Fair Trade”.