At Simply Handmade, we believe that fair trade is our humanist responsibility, so what does this responsibility look like? And what more can we, as individuals, do?
Fair trade means fair work. Fair prices. Fair collaboration. As of now, many large corporations are underpaying workers in developing countries and then selling us a much more expensive product. This is something that happens every single day, with much of the products we use, but many of us are making an effort to eliminate this unfair gap so that artisans are paid fairly for their work, and consumers can purchase products at a closer rate to their actual value. It’s time that we educate ourselves on the issue. Do research. Know where your products come from. The first step to creating change is identifying the problem.
It’s not fun to admit this, but by being passive, we all contribute to the problem. We all continue consuming products that have been crafted by underpaid workers and then sold to us at a much higher value. It’s time to take responsibility. The World Fair Trade Organization has taken responsibility, a corporate social responsibility, which we should all look to for guidance. Corporate social responsibility is an act of a company or organization being responsible for their impacts, decisions, and activities affecting the community and the environment. The responsibility is done through a transparent and ethical behavior that is acceptable throughout the organization and also practiced in its relationships, considers the expectation of the stakeholders, contributes to development including health, and well-being of the society and their laws are compliant with the international regulations.
This responsibility can further be broken down into three subcategories: ECONOMIC, ENVIRONMENTAL, and SOCIAL. All three groups play different roles in our community.
ECONOMIC – The WFTO has taken on the responsibility of reducing the price of production for producers, and improving the competitiveness of their products and increasing their profitability. Because many larger corporations up-sell their products and underpay the laborers and artisans, fair trade is beneficial to both groups, as the workers receive decent pay, and the consumers receive the product at a closer rate to its actual worth. The WFTO assigns a price to their products that will increase their profitability, without going overboard, as so many corporations do. It is also their responsibility to help the producers reinvest some of their profits towards business expansion so that they can thrive on their own.
ENVIRONMENTAL – The environmental responsibilities of the WFTO include ensuring a safe environment for the employees through soil and water protection, reducing the agrochemicals used in production and complying with prohibited FLO materials. Other responsibilities of the organization are to minimize other pollutants that occur, and reduce the use of genetically modified foods. The goods are shipped by sea, which is generally more efficient and therefore better for the environment than transporting goods by air. Also, the WFTO believes that all wastage from the producing companies should be well-handled and disposed of correctly, and does everything in its power to do so.
SOCIAL – Arguably the most critical responsibility of the WFTO is their social responsibilities. Social responsibility is a symbol of the standard norms and expectations that affect the consumer, shareholders, employees and the community regarding respect and protection. This responsibility is achieved by recognizing the limits of human and culture. More specifically, it is their responsibility to ensure the producers follow the international and national labor laws. In 2018, it’s safe to say that most of us believe that child labor should never be involved in the manufacture of our goods and services, and yet it continues happening every single day. There should be equal employment opportunities regardless of gender, race, or physical challenges, in every single country of this world. The producer has the responsibility of providing good health and safety, fair remuneration, and managing cultural diversity. Other social duties include having access to safe drinking water, and decent living standards for the workers, which the WFTO works towards daily.
It is the responsibility of every producing company to give back to the community. The CSR giving back to the community is a clear indication that the WFTO is willing to support and benefit the producers in developing countries. The trade fairs have shown equal interest in all economic, social and environmental responsibility, to promote the livelihoods of the marginalized producers. All upcoming or marginalized producers are encouraged to join the WFTO and participate fully. The CSR will uplift their status in the community and the world as well.
There are lobby groups that campaign for the WFTO trade products. The lobby groups have organized visits to “meet the people tour” whose lives have been changed by the fair trade. These groups have played a significant role that cannot be ignored. The CSR is their motive by promoting only goods in fair-trade.
Consumers are demanding for fair-traded commodities. This request has opened ways for awareness of buying fair-trade products, thus helping the marginalized producers in the developing countries.
So you’ve educated yourself and taken responsibility: that’s great! The final step is actually to live fair. Shop fair trade! Give a gift for a graduation, a birthday, a holiday present, or just because, through our store. You can also shop fair trade for things like coffee and chocolates, or support larger companies who also live fair (there aren’t many, but look into where your favorite companies get most of their products.) And lastly, pass all of this information along! Share this information with your loved ones and friends, so that one day all of us can live fair. It all starts with sharing this on your favorite social media channel. And don’t forget to hashtag #ItsSimplyFair to show off your new fair trade purchases.