Monday, September 13, 2010

Locally Featured, Fair Trade

This was a big weekend for Boston- sure the Patriots played a stellar game on Sunday, the BC Eagles won their game on Saturday, UMass overcame underdog status and crushed their opponent, and the Sox pulled out a late weekend win yesterday as well.  However, as much as Boston remains a sports town, something much, much bigger was celebrated here this weekend, Boston became the 20th Fair Trade Towne, and hosted the Fair Trade Futures Conference.  The Fair Trade movement is one that I have recently become more and more acquainted with, and one that plays a very important role in the world around us.  Because of these reasons, I would like to dedicate this week's Locally Featured, to the exploration of Fair Trade, and what it means to all of us.

Fair Trade, in its simplest terms, is a program designed to assist in alleviating global poverty, and increase the expansion of sustainable living practices.  Of course, this all sounds well and good right?  We've talked about sustainable living practices in the past (both here and here), and the idea of alleviating poverty is not a new one.  What makes the ideals behind Fair Trade really stand out however, are that although their goals are familiar, their methods are sound, and ones that hold true value in the world we live in.   

Fair Trade doesn't look to charity to assist in the battle against poverty.  Rather, it looks to ensure that trade of goods from impoverished countries are valued equally in toady's marketplace, and that those producers of goods that are in such high demand are compensated fairly.  The system that has been created of companies engaging in Fair Trade practices in elevates the ideas of ensuring that each person involved in a trade transaction truly knows the worth of their product.  Companies who have adopted these methods of importing goods prioritize the goals of their companies towards ensuring that their producers are taken care of.

Taken from The Fair Trade Organizations website, the principles of Fair Trade are:
  • "Create Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers - Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.  Members create social and economic opportunities through trading partnerships with marginalized producers.  Members place the interests of producers and their communities as the primary concern of their enterprise.
  • Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships- Fair Trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent, and respectful. Members show consideration for both customers and producers by sharing information about the entire trading chain through honest and proactive communication. They create mechanisms to help customers and producers feel actively involved in the trading chain. If problems arise, members work cooperatively with fair trade partners and other organizations to implement solutions.
  • Build Capacity- Fair Trade is a means to develop producers' independence.  Members maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect, so that producers can improve their skills and their access to markets. Members help producers to build capacity through proactive communication, financial and technical assistance, market information, and dialogue. They seek to share lessons learned, to spread best practices, and to strengthen the connections between communities, including among producer groups.
  • Promote Fair Trade- Fair Trade encourages an understanding by all participants of their role in world trade. Members actively raise awareness about Fair Trade and the possibility of greater justice in the global economic system. They encourage customers and producers to ask questions about conventional and alternative supply chains and to make informed choices. Members demonstrate that trade can be a positive force for improving living standards, health, education, the distribution of power, and the environment in the communities with which they work.
  • Pay Promptly and Fairly- Fair Trade empowers producers to set prices within the framework of the true costs of labor time, materials, sustainable growth, and related factors. Members take steps to ensure that producers have the capacity to manage this process. Members comply with or exceed international, national, local, and, where applicable, Fair Trade Minimum standards for their employees and producers. Members seek to ensure that income is distributed equitably at all times, particularly equal pay for equal work by women and men. Members ensure prompt payment to all of their partners. Producers are offered access to interest-free pre-harvest or pre-production advance payment.
  • Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions - Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor. Throughout the trading chain, Members cultivate workplaces that empower people to participate in the decisions that affect them.  Members seek to eliminate discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status. Members support workplaces free from physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.
  • Ensure the Rights of Children - Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education, and play. Throughout the trading chain, Members respect and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms. Members disclose the involvement of children in production. Members do not support child trafficking and exploitative child labor.
  • Cultivate Environmental Stewardship - Fair Trade seeks to offer current generations the ability to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Members actively consider the implications of their decisions on the environment and promote the responsible stewardship of resources. Members reduce, reuse, reclaim, and recycle materials wherever possible. They encourage environmentally sustainable practices throughout the entire trading chain.
  • Respect Cultural Identity - Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive and equitable change. Members respect the development of products, practices, and organizational models based on indigenous traditions and techniques to sustain cultures and revitalize traditions. Members balance market needs with producers' cultural heritage."
Theo Chocolate factory in Seattle, a business committed to these practices, they are ones that I feel must be at least examined.  Protecting the resources of our earth, and the equal treatment of persons from all over the world are basic principles.  They are ideals that, when adopted, truly act as forms of armor, ensuring that the earth will continue to be here for years to come.  That sounds pretty good to everyone right?

A list of Massachusetts based companies who subscribed to the practices of Fair Trade can be found on here. We should all be so proud of our great city of becoming a part of this great movement.  Each little step helps right?  

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