Fairtrade, the Fairer Way

ethical trading

Wouldn’t it be nice to have the power to help change the world for the better? Well it’s actually quite simple to do.

When you browse the aisles in a shop, it’s likely you’ll see many products with a fairtrade certified stamp printed on them. So what does fairtrade actually mean? And is it really making a positive impact on the world?

Fairtrade seeks to transform the lives of farmers and their families in developing countries by enabling them to achieve better trading conditions and promote sustainability.

So far it has changed the lives of over 1 million fairtrade farmers in 70 countries and that’s why at Impact Trading we are proud to hold a fairtrade license.

This year the fairtrade mark is 20 years old and so it seems an important time to reflect upon it’s development and encourage more ethical trading.

One way to learn more is to take a look at the products that can help contribute towards ethical trading. Lets start with cotton. Cotton is the most important crop in the textile industry with an estimated 300 million people working in the sector.

However cotton farmers are living in hardship. This is due to a number of factors including climate change, poor prices for seed cotton and poor terms of trade.

In addition to this did you know that trade is distorted by aid given to cotton farmers in rich countries, which ultimately devalues the price of cotton and allows rich countries to export their cotton for much cheaper than cotton produced in developing countries?

But by selling to the fairtrade market, cotton farmers are guaranteed a minimum price, which covers the cost of sustainable production and therefore makes a positive impact on their lives.

Clothes manufacturers should make sustainable cotton a core part of their businesses. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to see for myself the difference trading fairly can make after visiting the cotton farmers in India.

Then there’s coffee. Farmers in developing countries produce 80% of coffee, although many of them don’t earn a good living from it. The coffee production varies a lot due to a number of factors including weather conditions and diseases, therefore resulting in a market that is unstable.

However with fairtrade, farmers are guaranteed a minimum price for their coffee and this helps when market prices fall below a sustainable level. Starbucks is committed to supporting fairtrade coffee and by 2015 wants to ensure that 100% of their coffee is ethically sourced. Let’s hope other companies follow in their footsteps.

Cocoa is another product of ethical trading. There are about 6 million farmers who try to earn their living from growing cocoa beans but even with the price of cocoa beans rising, farmers still aren’t benefiting from it and remain in poverty, with many earning on average just £50 a year.

Fairtrade is there to help the cocoa farms become more sustainable and an added premium has been put in place to support local community projects. Green & Blacks was the first company to bear the fairtrade mark in 1994 and now many others are doing the same, just like Ferrero, who this year announced plans to purchase 20,000 tonnes of fairtrade cooca over the next 3 years.

Along with these products are bananas, sugar, tea, flowers, gold – the amount of products that are contributing to ethical trading is expanding. So whether you own a business or you’re a consumer, make sure it’s fairtrade you choose.

 Susan Waters, the author of this article, is the Founder of Impact Trading and Cotton Roots – a corporate clothing company dedicated to sustainability and fairtrade.

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