When I reach for a Fair Trade product I appreciate that the companies I work with place a high value on transparency, accountability, equity, inclusion and reinvestment. Rather than just being a pretty label on their packaging, the identification of Fair Trade on the products I proudly promote, sell and use, means that every purchase benefits farming families in Africa, Asia and South America.
It is vital to acknowledge that there are good Fair Trade companies, and some that are less good. When I choose Fair Trade products for my coffee shop, I seek out companies that deal as directly as possible with the growers in the country of origin. I work actively with companies that are able to tell me about the growers and their families and how my purchase benefits them and their communities.
The ultimate goal of the Fair Trade movement is to eradicate poverty through direct trade, which links consumers with producers, without the many intermediaries taking a cut of the cost of the product. Direct trade allows the producer to receive the full economic benefit of their hard work while providing me with quality product for my consumption.
Rather than being paid pennies on the pound, a good Fair Trade company pays the producer a generous percentage of the final purchase price, and in turn reinvests back into the community assisting with projects identified by the growers and their families.
Many companies also prioritize assistance to women, youth and the disabled. They provide employment to those on the margins and offer educational bursaries to young women and men. A good Fair Trade company disrupts the cycle of poverty by giving new opportunities to those it works with.
There is much coverage of the failings of the Fair Trade movement in our media today, and many voices would discourage us from opting to pay a bit more for our coffee, tea, sugar or chocolate. But when we consider how much we have in our society and how little others have, is it not a good choice to make a positive difference in a community half a world away?
Fair Trade is not perfect, but as a movement it is a far better option than the conventional food industry trade. Paying a bit extra for our coffee ensures a farm family directly benefits from our purchase.