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Most of us want to purchase products that cause no harm to the planet and to the animals and people that live on it. However, this can be harder than it looks. With all the logos and certification marks out there, how can you make sense of the information and make sure you purchase ethical products from sustainable brands? Should you focus on recycled materials? Vegan or cruelty-free products? Plastic-free components? The SAIL team is here to demystify the various sustainability claims there is out there so you can make informed decisions. Starting with the FAIRTRADE Mark.
In this article, you will learn:
You’ve probably seen the recognizable FAIRTRADE Mark on your coffee or your bananas. But what does it mean? In simple terms, Fairtrade works with producers to build a trade model that ensures small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries, often some of the most marginalized communities, can thrive. This includes making sure they receive a good income for their work, are provided with optimal working conditions and use sustainable, environmentally friendly farming practices. Each time a consumer purchases a Fairtrade certified product, they ensure those at the very start of the supply chain are treated fairly and paid a decent wage. This is an extremely important sustainability criteria for the outdoors industry, as a lot of gear contains raw materials such as cotton, often grown by these farming communities.
Fairtrade has set up several initiatives that, when combined, make up a sustainable trade model for small-scale farmers, their workers, and their local communities. Here they are.
When it comes to making decisions, producers and farmers are given a 50% share of the vote, along with the certifying bodies. They are equal partners, which means they have a say in everything, from setting prices to implementing new farming standards, and are consulted throughout the process.
Fluctuations in market prices can have a huge impact on those growing a product. The market price of an item can be the difference between a good income year and a very low one, potentially destabilizing entire businesses. Fairtrade sets a Minimum Price, both by product and by region, which protects growers from important price drops and therefore ensures they receive a steady revenue.
In addition to guaranteeing a decent living wage for farmers and their workers, Fairtrade allocates additional funds to producers. These are communal funds, and their spend is determined by the entire community based on their current priorities. These priorities will vary from year to year and could be anything from building much-needed infrastructure for the farms or the community, to setting up initiatives such as health care or education. The Premium aims to improve the well-being of the people living in the surrounding villages and towns, all of whom are contributing to the success of the farming operation in one way or another.
To ensure optimal working conditions for workers, Fairtrade produces a set of standards in collaboration with farmers and producers. These strict standards must be adhered to in order for businesses to maintain their Fairtrade certification. They cover the social, economic, and environmental components of the production process. Fairtrade audits every single link in the supply chain and businesses are held to high standards, which also requires that farmers continue to develop and improve their farming practices.
When it comes to improving the lives of some of the most marginalized groups involved in the production process, Fairtrade doesn’t solely focus on decent wages. Its work aims to improve the economic, social, and environmental elements linked to farming practices, and ultimately the lives of the farmers, their workers and the entire community surrounding them.
As mentioned, Fairtrade ensures farmers receive a more stable income as they are less vulnerable to fluctuating prices, and provides communities with additional funds to build infrastructure or implement social initiatives. But it goes further than that. The certification empowers producers by giving them a stronger negotiating position within the trade market, allowing them the opportunity to fetch a higher price for their products.
Fairtrade supports communities in several ways. The certifying body organizes small-scale farmers and producers into cooperatives, which gives them more bargaining power within the trade system and improves their standing in the market. Fairtrade also looks after workers by ensuring businesses take care of their employees, give them fair salaries, and working conditions that protect them from harm. Fairtrade is particularly vocal about fighting against child and forced labour, and promoting gender equality within the areas it is involved in.
Looking after the people is one thing, but Fairtrade also looks after the Earth. Many of its farming communities are impacted by climate change, so it’s only natural that the organization has a strong environmental focus.
Fairtrade requires that producers only implement sustainable farming practices which are not damaging the environment, for example by restricting the use of harmful chemicals. And while not all Fairtrade products are organic, the certifying body certainly does have a focus on organic farming.
When purchasing anything that will be used on your next hike, walk, run or any other outdoor outing, look for the FAIRTRADE Mark. From the cotton in your t-shirt to the coffee you drink on your way there or the nuts or bananas you snack on during your break, all these products were grown by farmers who were provided with the right conditions to thrive.