The principles of Fair Trader
As part of the launch of Fair Trader's new blog, it would be useful at the outset to outline what basic principles govern how the organisation conducts its business and how these principles are connected to the fair trade movement in the world at large.
As a-not-for profit organisation, we are driven solely by our purpose to:
- Partner smaller and sustainable suppliers, particularly co-operatives, and thereby help and support disadvantaged communities across the globe.
- Provide customers with a diverse and contemporary range of fairly traded and ethical products which have been individually assessed by our members in terms of their environmental, economic and social impact throughout the supply chain, based on both qualitative and quantitative data.
- Support the enterprise and initiatives of other fair trade organisations, co-operatives, schools and community groups.
"But what does 'fair trading' mean in practice?"
The most rigorous definition of fair trade comes from products which bear the official Fairtrade certified trademark.
In order for products to have this mark, the ingredients in the products must have been produced by small-scale farmer organisations or plantations that meet Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards. These standards include protection of workers' rights and the environment, payment of the Fairtrade minimum price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects. On large-scale production for example, Fairtrade standards protect workers’ basic rights; keeping them safe and healthy, allowing them freedom of association and collective bargaining, to preventing discrimination and ensuring no bonded or illegal child labour. They also require employers to pay wages that progress towards living wage benchmarks. Ensuring decent working conditions and strong worker rights is central to Fairtrade’s work.
The case of coffee
A particularly pertinent example that starkly illustrates the urgent need to adopt fair trade standards concerns global coffee production.
The increased concentration of the international agricultural market structure through mergers, acquisitions and informal alliances, means that a few corporate giants are establishing global market networks that integrate the value-chain from gene to seed, through production, processing, distribution and trade. These corporate giants are therefore increasing their market power and control over the entire range of agricultural production and trading functions. The consequence of this is that the local producers' price (i.e. the local farmers) represents extremely low proportions of the product's final retail price at the end of the commodity chain. For coffee this ranges from just 11-24% of the final price, while with products such as raw cotton this can be as low as 4%. Fair trading seeks to combat this dire trend by ensuring that local farmers receive a fair wage that enables them to have an assured and stable income.
At Fair Trader we help support the fair trade movement by promoting local community cooperatives that produce sustainably sourced coffee, which in turn helps support local communities. Our current coffee range includes the Grumpy Mule, Oromo Coffee, and Source La Sierra coffee brands.