Today I just wanted to share a few facts about Fair Trade that are important to remember, if you are striving to shop ethically and avoid products that have any connections to slave labor.
“Fair Trade” does not always mean “slave-free”
From Free the Slaves:
Currently there are no guarantees that any product or investment is 100% slavery free. Slavery is so widespread and so hidden that proving its complete absence remains a challenge in most situations. But the anti-slavery movement is making new breakthroughs every day.
There is also not one agreed-upon definition of “fair trade.” Different certifications have different standards, some potentially more lax than others.
Some slave-free products may not be officially certified with a fair trade label
Smaller farms and companies may simply be unable to afford the fees to pay for certification, and thus are not labeled fair trade. Or they are too small to form cooperatives, or adhere to other standards and requirements for certification.
And not all fair trade labels tell the whole truth
This morning I discovered the term “greenwashing,” which means a company can brand itself as a fair trade partner, when they might only offer a small percentage of fair trade products. But that also could mean they are at least starting to make some small steps towards eliminating slave labor from their products, which is still a step in the right direction. Like Starbucks–they are listed on FairTradeUSA’s site, but be sure to click the company and see all of their available fair trade products: there’s only one. Fair Trade Certified Italian Roast. We still should urge them to continue the trend.
Also, as I mentioned last week, take the Indian workers in Assam as an example. Their wages are so low they are made vulnerable to traffickers, even though they may pick tea that is certified as “fair trade.”
For more information, WorldCentric.org has a good concise overview of fair trade, its goals, and its complications.
We just need to do our research, spend a few minutes looking into the products we wish to buy and find out their stories. Fair trade is not a myth, and ethical products are not impossible. We just need to shop with our eyes wide open–even if there is a label.