May 8 is World Fair Trade Day, a celebration of a movement that responds to poverty, economic and global food crises, and climate change.
In today’s world, increasing numbers of people are beginning to agree with what Natural Life Magazine has been based on since 1976: that we are all connected and the world’s various problems are interconnected…and that there can be no sustainability without solving all of the issues. That means there can be no economic justice without solving climate problems, that our health is connected to the way we treat the environment and how businesses operate, and so on. The Fair Trade movement has been working for a couple of decades now on a solution to these problems. Its main principle is to create markets that value the people who make the food we eat and the goods we use. It combines social justice with an alternative business model and a system of global commerce, and is also a tool for international development.
Farmers, artisans, and other low income workers in over eighty countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America now make scores of products under contract with Fair Trade organizations and companies adhering to Fair Trade principles. The most common are coffee, sugar, cocoa, chocolate, bananas, tea, jewelry, clothing, and housewares. Others include cut flowers, toys, furniture, art, sports balls, wine, olive oil, rice, spices, and herbs. These Fair Trade producers benefit in many ways from favorable financing, long-term relationships with buyers, minimum prices, community investment, capacity building, and sustainable environmental standards. Participants often credit Fair Trade for helping them eat adequately, access health care, send kids to school, clean their water, care for orphans or disabled people, and manage sustainable businesses.
There are a number of definitions of Fair Trade, a number of certifiers, and no single, regulatory body. That means that, like the words “organic,” “natural,” and “eco,” the term “Fair Trade” is not always what it seems. You can find information about how to recognize genuine Fair Trade products at the website of the Fair Trade Resource Network.
An international coalition of Fair Trade organizations has agreed on this definition: “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”
On May 8 – and in this coming week leading up to Fair Trade Day – communities around the world will be hosting information sessions, conference, food tastings, Frisbee tournaments, fashion shows, trade fairs, markets, film screenings, book launches, and much more. So it’s a great time to learn more about this important step towards global sustainability.