Fairtrade exists as an alternative trade that recognizes the effects that colonization had on the worldwide trading system and sought to create a more equal exchange, which is why products focus on producers in Africa, Asia and South America, with products such as sugar, cocoa, tea, coffee and cotton— all of which are commodities connected with long histories of slavery and oppression.
In many ways, however, 2020 is also the year of reimagination; reimagining not only the role business can play, but the role that they should play.
I’m often asked about certifications consumers can look out for to support products and companies that are prioritizing both people and the planet as part of their business model. Fairtrade America has always been a go-to recommendation.
Fairtrade exists as an alternative trade that recognizes the effects that colonization had on the worldwide trading system and sought to create a more equal exchange, which is why products focus on producers in Africa, Asia and South America.
Some of Fairtrade’s most popular products are coffee, tea, and cocoa, all of which have historical microcosms of racism, cruelty and power.
In developing their standards and support systems, Fairtrade has taken this history into account and has aimed to transform trading conditions, so that those most disadvantaged by these historical injustices have more control over their futures.
Farming is the single largest employer in the world—two out of every five people farm. Yet, many farmers live on $2 per day. This is not enough. Poverty is the root of many social and economic injustices that people in agricultural and rural communities face.
Fairtrade operates with the recognition that the typical model of global trade exploits farmers and workers while delivering profits to middlemen and large companies.
This problem is not new. The injustices that farmers face exist because of historical inequalities and injustices, many of which were solidified during the Colonial era and continue to the present day.
Trade affects income, income affects what you do, how you navigate the world, how you live and how you support people in your life. Fairtrade fights income inequality, supports workers, stands up for gender equality, combats child labor and prioritizes the environment.
Fairtrade works by meeting rigorous social, economic and environmental standards, and they have been independently audited by FLOCERT.
Fairtrade sets economic Standards for manufacturers to more equitably distribute the benefits of trade. These include things like paying the Fairtrade Minimum Price as well as the Premium, requiring traceability of the product through record-keeping as well as transparency in trade relations and providing pre-finance if requested by producer.
Social Standards are typically at the co-op or Producer Organization level. Fairtrade does not allow exploitative child labor or any discriminatory employment practices. Their Standards cover things like working conditions (such as having employment contracts), the ability for workers to organize and democratic voting as part of their membership.
Fairtrade’s environmental standards aim to minimize producers’ impact on the planet, while still meeting them where they are both in terms of their geographical realities and their business growth. Their Standards ban the use of dangerous pesticides and GMO seeds, protect natural resources and encourage eco-friendly cultivation. They also incentivize organic farming through an increased Premium and Minimum Price.
With the holiday season ahead, find a round-up of some my favorite Fairtrade America businesses below that feature different price points & POC-ownership:
Terra Thread – POC OWNED ($)
Price Range: $50 and under
Terra Thread founder, Vik Giri, who grew up in Nepal, was inspired to start Terra Thread due to a lack of transparency in the supply chain in South Asia. Vik decided to focus on bags, creating fair trade organic bags, backpacks, and totes through partnerships in India.
They use GOTS-certified organic cotton, free of any harmful synthetic chemicals, that are grown on farms that follow the Fairtrade standards, which means the makers have been paid a premium for their work; they collectively decide how to use this extra funding to better their lives.
People Tree – WOC Owned ($-$$)
Price Range: $10-$250
A pioneer in sustainable fair trade fashion, People Tree started in 1991 by Safia Minney. Contemporary, versatile designs and playful, exclusive prints inspired by the V&A archives create stylish and affordable fashion while respecting people and the planet. Collections are made using traditional artisan skills such as hand weaving, hand knitting, hand embroidery and hand block printing.
JamnationsJams – WOC Owned ($)
Price Range: $50 and under
Jamnation, made in San Francisco by Gillian Reynolds, celebrates exquisite fruit, with a focus on sustainability & superior ingredients. On a trip to Brazil in 2013, the simple fruits she tasted from small, local farms exploded with flavors that blew her away. Returning to San Francisco, she sought out the same intensity of flavor in local organic fruit from small Northern California farms.
Jamnation uses only local, organic fruit from family farms within 200 miles and Fairtrade certified sugar and spices. Their jams have up to 50% more fruit and up to 50% less added sugar with no added pectin or preservatives. Each flavor uses globally inspired florals, herbs + spices to create a unique combination with a focus on sourcing, sustainability, and the pursuit of great flavors.
La Riojana Wines – POC Owned ($)
Price Average: $50 and under
La Riojana produces a wide range of high quality wines including Fairtrade and Organic certified wines from a vast number of different grape varieties grown in sunny high altitude vineyards in La Rioja province, northwest Argentina. Each grower that makes up the La Riojana family has their own unique story to tell. But the majority, up to 80%, are small growers, owning no more than three hectares of land.
La Riojana is one of the largest co-operative wineries in Argentina with annual production of close to 40 million litres a year. They now have over 500 producer partners united by our past, with many coming from families that have been part of the co-operative since its beginning. La Riojana was the first Argentine winery to become a Fairtrade certified in 2006, and became certified as an organic producer in 2000 and has grown to become one of the country’s largest producers of organic wine.
The Fairtrade Mark appears on more than 30,000 products globally and new brands are committing to Fairtrade every day.
Want to discover more items? Find them in the Fairtrade America online catalogue.