Fair trade is all about the 3 P’s: making a profit, respecting people and protecting the planet.
You may have heard news stories of governments negotiating trade agreements, followed by commentary from talking heads debating the merits of free trade vs. fair trade.
Free trade is the idea that countries should trade with one another with little government restriction and regulation, allowing the free market systems to determine the rules and outcomes.
Advancements in technology, communication and modes of transportation have truly made our markets global, and free trade agreements are opening up markets that once had little opportunity to expand. A common theme heard amongst free trade advocates is that people living in developing countries benefit when business moves in and offers job opportunities where none existed. And this is true!
The problem with free trade, however, is that workers in developing countries do not have legal protections for safe working conditions, and corporations take advantage of this for economic gain.
In so many places around the world, it is legal for companies to pay workers less than $1 a day, force them to work 12-18 hours everyday of the week and employ children and slaves in unsafe buildings where preventable fires and accidents are common occurrences.
Again, companies take advantage of this because it is legal, but is it ethical?
The answer to that question is obvious. Even when the laws do not enforce a higher standard, companies can hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct by engaging in fair trade.
Companies do not need to choose. Free trade and fair trade are not at odds with one another; the reality is that trade can be both global and fair, providing opportunities for people all over the world!
And we as consumers can change the way the world does business by buying from companies that have free and fair trade practices!
Fair trade practices include: no child or forced labor; fair payment; good working conditions; business transparency; respect for the environment.
Fair Trade refers broadly to the fair trade movement and to the organizations and businesses that adhere to its principles and ethics. (The one-word term “Fairtrade” describes the certification and labelling system governed by Fairtrade International.) There are many organizations that promote fair trade through certification and monitoring programs. (Though not every fair trade organization or business applies for certification from these organizations and associations because of the expense.)