After having a few weeks contemplate what I learned most at the Fair Trade Conference, I am writing a blog to help with my thoughts! I have owned The Golden Rule and have been working in the fair trade “world” for a full year now. As amazing as that is to me- I still feel so new to what I am doing. To be fair, I don’t do this full time- as much as I hope to one day, it is not the current situation. But a year has gone by, and I still constantly feel like I’m learning and growing in this business.
I have to say, I never stop learning about fair trade and what it truly means. At the conference, I continued to learn about the labels and what the different labels entail. The Fair Trade Federations slogan is “Trade built on trust”. I learned that companies that are Fair Trade Federation Members are companies that reside in the United States but work with artisans in other countries. There is a rigorous process for these companies to go through. My impression, before the conference, was that the federation was going to the countries and visiting the artisans. I was mistaken. However, this does not mean that the process is not rigorous. There is still a lengthy application requiring proof that the company is up to par with each of the fair trade principles. There is no way to fake the evidence. If the federation needs more information the process can take a long time. The won’t just let anyone in as a member because they “say” they are abiding by the principles. Each company needs solid proof before they approve anyone. They can tell pretty easily if something seems fishy and if the company applying is making something up because you need proper documentation to prove you are abiding by each indivudal principle.
From what I learned being a member of the Fair Trade Federation is approving the American company for membership and World Fair Trade Organization is approving the cooperatives. For example, we work with Matatraders who is an American company working with artisans in Nepal. The cooperatives in Nepal are members of the World Fair Trade Organization and Matatraders itself is a member of the Fair Trade Federation. Both processes are rigorous. World Fair Trade Organization is actually traveling to the cooperatives and making suggestions on how to become more ethical. Once the companies and cooperatives have a membership in the organization it does not stop there. The Fair Trade Federation and World Fair Trade Organization continues to audit and monitor each company every year so that we know they are continuing to be transparent and follow the ten principles.
Seeing either of these labels means that the company is following the Fair Trade Principles. If you need a refresher, please go back and look at our previous post on the Fair Trade Principles which goes into a little bit further depth on what each principle means. We also love questions! Please don’t hesitate reaching out to us. I have been learning about this for a solid year, not including my research before I opened the company and feel like I continue everyday to learn something new. This isn’t a simple math equation. There are a lot of factors involved. However, it’s a good thing. There are organizations out there working to make our world more ethical and the products that we use everyday are being made in an ethical and sustainable way.
Both organizations, World Fair Trade Organization and Fair Trade Federation, want to help customers choose products that are fairly made, by providing a label. That label is proof that the company is abiding by the principles of fair trade and decreasing poverty. Through every step of the process the people are being treated fairly and using locally sourced products to create. When shopping we want to do our best to look for these labels. Without them, we do not know how the people behind the product is being treated. We don’t know if there is forced or child labor. We don’t know the working wage. We don’t know the working conditions.
I know that the different labels can be confusing, but shopping for a fair trade label means that you are making a good decision and helping our brothers and sisters around the world. Your purchase is giving them a new opportunity that they wouldn’t have otherwise. You are making an ethical decision and you can be proud of your purchase.
Thank you for reading and for continuing to shop with The Golden Rule Boutique. We enjoy being on this journey and learning with you!!
Do you have an idea for a blog post? Want to learn something specific about fair trade? We would love to hear from you!!