The term "fair trade" describes a global effort to ensure that products are produced under fair working conditions, paying fair wages and being mindful of the earth and its resources. Several organizations provide certification to businesses who sell fair trade products — those that are produced and supplied under specific fair trade standards. The movement first affected the coffee industry and has since expanded to other farm products, fisheries, apparel and home goods.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Fair trade ensures fair wages and good working conditions for producers. This is important to some consumers who want to know that the products they are buying make a difference to people's lives.
Know the Fair Trade Facts
In a recent study conducted by Cone Communications, 89% of those surveyed said they would like to see more products by companies that support social and/or environmental causes. Younger people in particular are serious about wanting to use products that they know are making a difference in the lives of those who produce them, as well as being good stewards of the planet. They are eager to work for companies that are making a difference in people's lives.
Assuring that farmers, ranchers and other producers receive a fair price for their products is a major part of the fair trade movement. Fair Trade USA — one of the organizations that certify fair trade products and businesses — also provides Community Development Funds to producers which they, as a group, decide how and where to spend depending on their current needs. For example, they may decide to purchase equipment that all can share, rather than each producer having to purchase his own. Or they may set up a scholarship fund for people to learn about sustainable farming methods and bring that knowledge back to the community.
Understand Benefits of Fair Trade
Many different organizations are involved in the global fair trade movement, and several offer to certify that businesses are following fair trade practices. But all share the desire to engage in fair business practices that help, rather than take advantage of, their producers and suppliers.
If you, as a small business owner, decide to make certain that your supply chain practices fair trade policies, all the way to the producers of the goods you sell, you are helping to ensure specific benefits of fair trade.
Fair wages: Fair trade standards set minimum prices for products so that farmers and workers can afford to live and take care of their families, and have funds to invest in their community's growth.
Good working conditions: Checking on the working conditions where goods are grown, produced or manufactured helps stop slave labor and child labor practices, as well as the grueling 14-hour days working in the fields or factories just to meet basic needs.
Environmental awareness: Every decision made by fair trade certified businesses takes into consideration the impact on the environment. This affects the choice of fertilizers and the use of biological pesticides, for example, to keep waters from being polluted.
Transparency: Fair trade standards are applied to every supplier in the chain, so there are no hidden, unethical practices.
Product quality: Consumers who want to buy fair trade products are also concerned about quality. Fair trade standards also make sure quality is maintained.
Become Known for Company Values
When you announce that your business follows fair trade policies, it shows that you support fair wages and treating people right and that you care about the planet, its resources and the environment. You have the satisfaction of knowing that you're helping individuals escape poverty, and providing funds for them to improve their communities.
If you decide to have your business become Fair Trade Certified, that shows that your products were produced under specific human rights and ecological standards. Many people will buy your products over competitors' products for this reason, and it can help you secure top talent in a competitive hiring market.
The Small Business Association's National Small Business of the Year for 2016 was Equator Coffees and Tea, a fair trade certified company. In an interview on MSNBC, cofounder and CEO Helen Russell said, "The values of the company resonate with employees," and continued, "Chefs . . . care about the quality in the cup . . . but they want to know that we're making a difference in the world."
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.