What is Fair Trade?

You may have heard me mention, or read here on the website, that I use Fair Trade handmade papers in my work. But what does this actually mean?  What exactly is fair trade?

What is Fair Trade title image

Put simply, Fair Trade is a social movement that is all about empowering farmers and workers in developing countries.  It ensures that they have fair access to trading markets, and promotes decent working conditions, fair wages and environmentally-sustainable practices.

History of Fair Trade

The fair trade movement began around the 1950s and 1960s.  It was based on the idea that more equitable trade with developing countries was a better solution than simply providing temporary financial aid. The popular slogan "Trade, not Aid" was adopted by the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development in 1968.

In the decades that followed, different organisations were involved in raising awareness and bringing fairly-traded products from producers in developing countries to consumers in Europe and North America. This was mostly through the setup of small stand-alone fair-trade stores.  The need soon arose for fair-trade products to be available in mainstream stores. Labelling systems were then created so that fair trade products could be identified on supermarket shelves.

In 1997, Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International was created to bring together the different organisations involved and in 2002, the International Fairtrade Certificate mark was launched.  This label is now used in over 50 countries worldwide. It can be seen on many different products including coffee, rice, bananas, cocoa, sugar, quinoa and even wine.

Fair Trade symbol

In 2004, the World Fair Trade Organisation developed a new label to identify organisations (rather than just specific products).

WFTO label

The 10 Principles of Fair Trade

The World Fair Trade Organisation lists 10 principles which businesses must adhere to in order to be granted Fair Trade certification.

 

1.Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers

Empowering marginalised farmers and workers, independent business owners and co-operatives, providing opportunities to link them with global markets, and allowing them to move from poverty to financial self-sufficiency

 

2. Transparency and Accountability

Organisations need to involve all their employees in the decision-making process, and must provide good communication and relevant information at all levels of the supply chain.

 

3. Fair Trading Practices

Ensuring that producers and workers are not exploited to make a profit. Organisations must have relationships with suppliers based on trust and mutual respect. For example, payment to suppliers must occur on receipt of goods or when mutually agreed, and buyers must consult with suppliers prior to cancelling or changing orders etc.

 

4. Fair Payment

Payment that has been negotiated openly and mutually agreed to and includes fair wage (at least equal to local living wage) as well as fair profit, and takes into account equal pay for equal work done by men or women.

 

5. No Child Labour or Forced Labour

There must be no forced labour, and any labour involving children must adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Any involvement of children must be fully disclosed and closely monitored, and and must not have any detrimental effect on the child's well being, educational requirements or need for play.

 

6. Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association

Ensures there is no discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV/AIDS status or age.

 

7. Good Working Conditions

Ensuring that work hours and conditions and health and safety practices adhere to relevant national laws and ILO conventions

 

8. Providing Capacity Building

Organisations need to promote and provide opportunities for their employees to develop and improve their skills and production capabilities

 

9. Promoting Fair Trade

The organisation is an advocate for, and works to raise awareness of the importance of Fair Trade

 

10. Respect for the Environment

Encourages the use of raw materials which have been sustainably and locally sourced, reduction of energy consumption and use of renewal energy sources wherever possible, use of biodegradable packaging, and minimising toxic waste and harmful environmental practices.

 

Little Deer Studio's commitment to Fair Trade

I strongly agree with these principles and am committed to making sure that any materials I use are produced and traded in accordance with them.

A lot of the Nepalese handmade papers I use to create my books and other products are produced by a fair-trade registered co-operative of about 125 people, most of whom are women living in rural villages in Nepal. This co-op not only ensures fair wages and good working conditions for all the members, but also uses a significant portion of its profits to provide educational scholarships for girls in the villages, as well as other important initiatives such as AIDS awareness.

The rest of the Nepalese papers I use are sourced from a fair-trade certified shop in Kathmandu, and occasionally from fair-trade stores here in Australia.

Likewise, the elephant dung paper I use, which is handmade in Sri Lanka, is also a registered Fair Trade product. You can read more about the elephant dung paper here.

You too, can help promote and support Fair Trade by looking out for products that have the certification mark and by supporting businesses which adhere to fair trade principles.


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