Please take the pledge to buy fair trade.
As more and more people demand products that are
produced ethically with respect to farmers, workers, and the
environment, more and more companies are jumping to supply them. This is
good news for consumers who can find more products that match their
values. It's also good news for farmers when this translates into better
payment terms and for workers when it translates into safer working
conditions, better wages, and more rights.
But this rapid growth of ethically labeled products also represents a
challenge. First, not all labels mean the same thing. Fair trade labels
generally guarantee that farmers are paid a fair price, long-term
relationships are developed, a premium is paid toward community
development projects, some basic environmental protections are in place,
and other principles of fair trade are incorporated. Standards that
must be met for other eco-social labels may be more limited in scope,
focusing for example only on price as is the case with most "Direct
Trade" claims, or even focusing only on workers on large farms where
landowners are already well off.
For single ingredient products, like coffee, consumers may more easily
navigate this landscape by identifying a label that matches their values
and purchasing coffees that meet those label's standards, or by
sticking with a single brand they know they trust. Advocacy
organizations like Fair World Project can help with this navigation.
For products made of multiple ingredients from many sources, the
confusion is magnified. A label that looks nearly identical to the label
used on a bag of coffee may appear on a jar of iced tea, a chocolate
bar, a lip balm, or other product even though there may only be one
certified ingredient in that product and that one ingredient might be as
little as a fifth of the total product make-up.
In some ways, this is more good news. It indicates that even
conventional food manufacturers with complex multi-ingredient product
lines are recognizing that they need to source key ingredients through
ethical supply chains that ensure fairness and dignity to farmers and
workers. Yet, independent consumer research has shown that putting a
fair trade seal on a product with as little as 20% fair trade content is
misleading to consumers, who have difficulty distinguishing versus a
majority or entirely fair trade product. And when this information is
lacking, it is difficult even for advocacy organizations like FWP to
untangle the confusion.