October is Fair Trade Month!

Over the last few years, Fair Trade has become a more common term. Fair Trade coffee and chocolate have become more important to many consumers and we hear this word all the time. But what does Fair Trade really mean? How does it work?

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a certification process that assures that the workers in developing countries that grew your coffee beans, cocoa, sugar cane or many more products were paid, well, fairly. In order to certify, the farmer must use sustainable practices. Fair Trade is a Nonprofit program, but is not a charity, meaning that rather than making communities reliant on donations and drops, they are helping them build businesses, improve their local economy and learn how to sell their product in a free market for a price they deserve.

I still don't get it...

Sometimes understanding how businesses work can be tricky. This great video from Fair Trade USA does a great job of explaining how your choices at the grocery store take the dollars you spent and turn them into solutions for communities in developing countries!

Ok, so I know the positives. What are the negatives to Fair Trade Certification? 

Unfortunately, everything has a downside and the issue with Fair Trade is the very thing that also makes is good: the certification process. While the process of certifying makes sure that workers are making sure they are fairly paid, using sustainable methods and that their are improvements to the community, which is great, the process can be expensive. Some organizations cost less than others. If you are interested in learning more, this article does a great job of explaining. 

Wait... Is Fair Trade the same as Free Trade? 

Not at all! Free trade means that the person that sold their goods was able to do so without taxation from the government or tariffs. While in theory this sounds great, free trade also believes in leveling the playing field on an international level. So say you have sugar grown in Africa and Central American and this year Africa had a great year for sugar so it was pretty cheap, if Central America had a bad year and experiences a lot of crop loss and needed to sell their product at a higher price, because of the level playing field aspect of free trade, they would not be able to and would have to sell it for the same low price as the farmers in Africa. This pattern can worsen poverty in some places even more. Dosomething.org does a great job of explaining the difference between Fair Trade and Free Trade. 

How do I know if something is Fair Trade?

In a store, the best way to check is the label! If it has one of these logos, it means it has been officially Fair Trade Certified:

Sometimes on handicrafts or other products from smaller companies that do not want to/cannot pay the certification fee, telling if a product is certified is much harder. In these cases, you can do one of 2 things: 

  1. Contact the company. If they are truly a Fair Trade company, chances are high that they will be more than willing to share information and proof of their practices. It is a source of price for all fair trade businesses!
  2. For coffee, check out fairtradeproof.org! Find the coffee that you're drinking and it will take you to the exact lot where is was grown and will tell you if it has indeed been certified! (Isn't the internet amazing?!)
Image Credit: gogreenplus.org

Image Credit: gogreenplus.org

Does People's Grocery Cooperative sell Fair Trade products? 

We sure do! From coffee and sugar to jewelry and shampoo, we have a great selection of fair trade certified products! Keep an eye to our blog this month, to learn about our favorite Fair Trade Companies and products!