Op Ed

How Fair Trade Can Change the World

The term “Fair Trade” has been bandied around for several years, and when consumers see a “Fair Trade” label, they may think of two things. They may think, “Oh good, this coffee wasn’t picked by child labor” or they may think,” Seriously? It’s $4 more than the leading brand? $4 dollars?!?”

While there is no standard definition for fair trade, it basically implies that the company selling the fair trade product follows a set of ethical practices. This practices include the exclusion of child labor, paying workers a decent wage and being kind to the environment.Typically these goods are produced in poor Third World nations and exported to the industrialized West.

This feature on Pure & Co. on AOL news is a great example of what a fair trade company can accomplish, and how it really can change the world, one sweater at a time. In summary, the article states that the 4500 workers in Thailand are paid a fair wage, can earn vacation time, and enjoy health and education benefits. This things are not commonplace in rural Thailand. What I found most interesting though, was that instead of having one centralized factory, Pure & Co. allows to women to work from home or close to home. From reading the article, it seems that a truck delivers yarn on Monday to various villages, and then picks up the finished pieces on Friday. The women are free to work when they are able, making childcare arrangements that work for them, allowing greater flexibility and I suspect worker satisfaction. How brilliant is that?

Granted, some production lines can’t function on that model — but I bet more could than you might think. Any sort of hand sewing could be sent out to where workers are, along with painting home wares, embellishing items, making jewelry, making baskets or any of the other crafts that used to made at home before mass-production became all the rage. Imagine what could happen in villages across the world if industries came to them, instead of the other way around.

The biggest obstacle I have personally in purchasing Fair Trade products is the price. I am cheap, I’ll be the first to admit it. Why spend $20 on a napkin holder if I can get one at a big box store for $5? Well, reading what happens when a $20 napkin holder is purchased — that a woman can buy food for her family for a week, or it funds her child’s education or enables her to buy more materials to expand her business….well that hits home more so than knowing the big box store got 50%, the suppler got 25%, the freight guy got 20% and the worker in the factory got 5% of the purchase price, you know?

What are you favorite fair trade products? I’ve had Just Love Coffee, and I loved getting containers for my classroom from Global Gifts, which stocks items from around the world.

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