Sunday, October 4, 2009

It's Fair Trade Month

There are so many causes this month that it's hard to choose just one to blog about. A lot of my blogging friends have posted about Breast Cancer Awareness, so now that we have that covered, I've decided to write about Fair Trade.

October is Fair Trade month and as http://www.fairtrademonth.org/ tells us, there are 31 days, 31 ways to make a difference. I'm not suggesting purchasing a different product every day, but acknowledging that you could makes all the difference. But what exactly is Fair Trade?

The Fair Trade system ensures that people along every step of a product's supply chain receive fair wages, that workers and communities are treated with dignity, and that artisans and producers take steps to preserve the environment. Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, not everyone in the business world plays by the same rules, but fortunately, as the word spreads about the Fair Trade way of doing business, lots of people are starting to realize that is the right way to do things.

The supply chain for most products is really long and most people don't even know where their products come from. The conventional supply chain works something like this:

A producer creates a product. This product is sold to a middle man who then sells it to an exporter. The exporter sells it to a U.S. broker who turns around and sells to a big company. The big company sells it to a distributor who sells it to a store where you buy it. Whew! That's a lot of hands touching just one product. It's anyone's guess where all the raw materials originated that make up the product come from, so you as the consumer are even further removed from your end product. Acres of rainforest are destroyed every day to provide raw materials for the most basic of items. The conditions that producers work under are generally unhealthy. From pesticides, to biohazards, to sweat shop labor, no one should be exposed to sub par working conditions. The overuse of pesticides is not needed in order to get the results that people want.

Compare all of that to the Fair Trade supply chain:

A producer creates a product that is sold to a distributor. The distributor sells it to a store where you buy it. No middle man. No exporter. No big company. By offering a fair price to the producer, you are buying into a system that respects the true cost of doing business, rather than seeking the lowest costs at the expense of workers and the environment. This is really at the heart of Fair Trade - trading peoples lives and livelyhoods to create cheap products for consumers to buy. Why not buy a product that doesn't support these ideals?

There are lots of Fair Trade products in the marketplace. Most people have heard of Fair Trade coffee, chocolate, tea, and jewelry, but are you aware of Fair Trade flowers, sports balls, and wine? Fair Trade flowers have been for sale in the U.S. since 2008. These flowers are grown and harvested under healthy working conditions for the farmers. Fair Trade soccer ball production began in 2002 and this means no child labor is involved in producing these balls, in addition to fair wages and a healthy work environment for the workers . Fair Trade wine has been imported to the U.S. since 2007, primarily from South Africa, Chile, and Argentina. In South Africa, the vineyard workers maintain a 25% interest in the winery.

By developing relationships with producers, consumers know exactly where their products come from. They know that the people who create the products are able to live a decent life because they are paid wages that enable them to provide for their families. These people are treated with respect and work under conditions that promote a healthy environment. The raw materials used to create the products are harvested in a sustainable manner, thus preserving the environment for generations to come. Communities thrive where Fair Trade is practiced.

I encourage all of you to explore the many options of Fair Trade products. Simply look for the Fair Trade label to ensure the product is certified Fair Trade. Try some products this month in order to promote Fair Trade ideals. Get involved in the production of the products you purchase. Know where the raw materials come from. Understand and support the people that produce the items. Do the right thing and learn about Fair Trade. There has never been a better time.

5 comments:

Pearl said...

Thanks for all of the great info, Stubby! I have been pleasantly surprised lately by how much Fair Trade stuff I have come across. I really do think that awareness is starting to increase, thanks to people and dogs like you!!

I hope you had a relaxing weekend and that maybe you got some Popeye's!!!

Stubby said...

Hi Pearly Poo! I'm glad you've got your eyes open to all the cool Fair Trade stuff out there. I agree that awareness is increasing and purchasing Fair Trade products means that people can earn a living.

I had a relaxing weekend hanging out with Mom. She hasn't been feeling good but I took good care of her.

I really thought we were having Popeyes yesterday, but Dad decided against it despite my crying. Unfortunately, today is Monday and you know what that means - meatless!

Stubby xoxo

Melissa and Emmitt said...

hi stubby!

oh what a wonderful post! i always buy fair trade coffee, but i did not know about all of the other products that are available.
i always learn so much from you!

xoxoxo
m & e

Stubby said...

Hi Melissa & Emmitt! i'm so glad you buy fair trade coffee because it's the right thing to do. There are so many fair trade products on the market so check some out soon.

Stubby xoxo

One World Flowers said...

Hi Stubby!

"By offering a fair price to the producer, you are buying into a system that respects the true cost of doing business, rather than seeking the lowest costs at the expense of workers and the environment." You said it perfectly! Many larger companies are responsible for forcing producers to lower their prices by pressuring them with high volume sales. This leads to heavy competition among farms in rural areas who are eager to work with American or European businesses.

In the case of a flower farm, your options to lower costs are (1) Don't water the flowers, or (2) don't pay the workers. Those options lead to HUGE abuses that include forced overtime without pay, no benefits, no protective gear when dealing with chemicals, and even physical and sexual abuse as intimidation to work hard to keep a job.

All of this is why Fair Trade is so important in making a difference. It not only teaches a new way of doing business, but it also sets the ground rules needed for importing companies in the U.S. to guarantee that we're paying a fair price to start.

If you want to learn more about Fair Trade Flowers, please visit our website at http://www.oneworldflowers.org.

All the best!

Alaina Paradise
President
One World Flowers, Inc.