Fair trade is an environmental and social justice issue.
“Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives”.
What is fair trade coffee?
Fair trade coffee is founded on the principals of social justice and environmental sustainability. Its advent is a reaction to the worldwide exploitation of coffee growers. Coffee is traditionally a volatile market, where world prices can dip well below production levels, even while the cost of a cup of coffee remains the same. When prices fall, small-scale farmers are vulnerable to a cycle of poverty and debt, which is nearly impossible to transcend. The downfall of small farmers opens up the coffee market to huge companies who clear-cut forests, use chemicals and pesticides, and are not required to provide livable wages or safe working environments to employees. Fair trade coffee economics attempts to give the local coffee growers some stability within their livelihood.
The concept of fair trade originated in the 1940′s. A handful of church groups created a business model designed to benefit producers in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. The idea began with handcrafted goods, but today it encompasses coffee, tea, cocoa, fruit, sugar, rice and vanilla. Fair trade officially began with the formation of the international regulatory agency, Fairtrade Labeling Organisations International (FLO) in 1997. Today there are twenty organisations in 19 countries that belong to FLO, including the Australian member Fairtrade Labelling Australia & New Zealand (FLANZ).
The FLO and its member organisations are responsible for setting fair trade requirements and certifying companies who want to carry the fair trade logo on their brand. When a company is certified they have agreed to fulfill certain criteria, and are making a commitment to provide the consumer with a socially conscious product.
What environmental standards does Fairtrade have?
Fairtrade Certification incorporates a range of environmental sustainability standards that are required as part of the certification process including:
- No use of prohibited agricultural, production and processing chemicals
- Sustainable water use management
- Environmental impact assessment, planning and monitoring (with environmental practice improvements to be planned, monitored and reported)
- Waste minimisation strategies.
What else is fair trade?
Its not just coffee! There is a growing range of products available for purchase – browse the online shelves of the Oxfam Shop and you will find items including chocolate, bed linen, jewellery, sports equipment, cookware and crockery.