Things we know about me:
- I don’t like to own many things.
- I’m a sucker for things that make the world a better place.
- Asking me to join something that combines those together is a near guaranteed yes.
- Oh, and my definition of making a world a better place is pretty strict. It has to really make a different, not just make someone feel like it made a difference.
That’s why when the Australian online store, Tribes and Nations offered me some Fairtrade tea to celebrate Fairtrade Fortnight, I said, “yes, please”.
What is Fairtrade?
I’m sure you all know what Fairtrade is. But in case, it’s a licensing certification for farmers and artisans in developing countries. The farmers and artisans (collectively called producers and are sometimes also cooperatives) sell their products at a fair minimum price with marketing and distribution support. And in return they must provide a safe and legal workplace (no child or slave labour), the right to unionise, and adherence to the United Nations charter of human rights. I appreciate the fair price covering the costs of production and including a bit extra for the producer to use for improvements. Some improve their farms, etc, but most use it to pay for teachers and education in their communities.
Now because it wouldn’t be ethical to ignore comments I’ve made about Fairtrade in the past. It’s true, for all the good the Fairtrade organisation does, it’s not perfect and it’s also not my first choice in supporting these producers. I adore direct trade. It’s common in the United States for coffee. Roasters and retailers parter with growers to produce high quality beans that sell at a higher price. It’s the focus on quality that I like. Except I need to check my privilege on direct trade. It doesn’t scale and it’s viable for many, well, most really. While coffee roasters in the US have done it, it is essentially setting up the Fairtrade organisation for each individual producer and that’s not viable. Even with companies, like Starbuck, using direct trade, it still can’t boost as many producers as Fairtrade can.
The Impact of Fairtrade
There are two big, proven impacts from Fairtrade. The first is giving small producers in developing countries access to a global marketplace. The second is increased spending on healthcare, housing and education in these communities.
What Products are Fairtrade?
There’s the yummy Ceylon tea that Tribes and Nations sent me. It’s from a New Zealand brand called Scarborough Fair and I can attest to it being delicious. There’s also all the coffee, which is one of the things Fairtrade is best known for. Oh, and the coffee. The first Fairtrade items that caught my eye, many years ago are the homewares. Often they are made from scraps and whatever is available locally to the producers.
While researching this article, I also discovered there are Fairtrade golds and diamonds. It makes sense but isn’t something I ever thought of for Fairtrade products.
If you’re in Australia, I recommend checking out the Tribes and Nationals store. In North America, Ten Thousand Villages is a gorgeous collective of retail stores that you can visit in-person and online to shop. And while you’re doing that, I’m having another cup of Fairtrade tea. Thanks, Nadja, Mignonne and Grant.