In an increasingly globalised world, Fair Trade is becoming more and more recognised and debated. With this recognition, there also comes many misconceptions. This article seeks to dispel some of the common myths surrounding Fair Trade and hopes to leave you with a better understanding of what Fair Trade is all about.
Myth #1 Fair Trade is one word
This distinction can confuse a lot of people. Fairtrade (one word) refers to the certification system, AKA the little green and blue logo we see on many products. This ensures farmers are paid a minimum price for their goods and their communities are supported.
Fair Trade (two words) is the wider movement looking at the principles of fair business. While the Fairtrade mark is the most well-known image we associate with Fair Trade, organisations such as Amnesty International and World Vision – who have strong campaigns to end child labour and trafficking – would be considered members of the broader Fair Trade movement.
Myth #2: Cadbury chocolate is Fairtrade
Cadbury’s milk chocolate did carry the Fairtrade logo, but as of 2018 it has replaced it with a Cocoa Life mark. There are concerns because the Cocoa Life brand – which has similar aims to Fairtrade – is owned by Cadbury’s parent company. Therefore, its objectivity may be clouded by a lack of independence and accountability. As Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand CEO Molly Harriss Olson puts it, they are effectively ‘grading their own homework’. As such, it is difficult to determine whether their standards will be as high as established Fairtrade standards.
That being said, results from Cocoa Life’s program have so far been positive, with Cocoa Life farmers in Ghana seeing increases in productivity and income, while the benefits farmers receive from other ethical schemes have been falling, according to Reuters.
So, while Cadbury still appears to support sustainable and ethical cocoa production, the drop off in transparency is somewhat concerning.
Cadbury’s move away from a third-party label in Fairtrade does not seem to be a growing trend, with companies like Ferrero Rocher just recently increasing their use of Fairtrade certified cocoa.
Myth #3: All Fairtrade certifications mean the same thing
With so many different Fairtrade certifications and labels out there, it can be confusing when choosing a Fairtrade product. We’ve looked into some of the most common Fairtrade certification labels in order to help alleviate some of that confusion.
The globally recognised Fairtrade Mark
The blue and green symbol portraying a farmer in a field is displayed universally on products that meet strict Fairtrade standards related to social, economic and environmental criteria. These standards have been developed by the governing body, Fairtrade International, in cooperation with producers, traders, NGOs and other important players in the Fair Trade arena. Each time you purchase a fairtrade product, you are choosing to support and make a positive impact on the lives of producers and their communities in some of the world’s poorest countries, as they will receive what their work is really worth.
This label is similar to the Fairtrade Mark, with Fairtrade USA working very closely with farmers, companies and their suppliers. There’s transparency throughout the supply chain, ensuring adequate working conditions and fair wages. They are also helping to conserve the environment. Additionally, an amount from each product sold goes directly back to the source in the form of a Community Development Fund.
Fair for Life
Human rights are upheld at every stage of production and both workers and the local community are empowered by resources used for social projects and other initiatives. It is distinctive in that it recognises that ‘existing systems for assurance of social and Fair Trade conditions unfortunately exclude many operations worldwide from independent verification and certification of their performance’.
Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA)
For clothing brands that make most or all of their products in Australia and are accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, a peak body which audits the transparency of supply chains of Australian textiles and apparel companies.
Fair Wear Foundation
An international certification body that helps textiles and apparel companies achieve determined labour standard goals, including empowering producers with a living wage—which is one greater than a minimum wage and allows for savings.
Myth #4 Fairtrade is a rip-off
While Fairtrade products can be more expensive than their non-Fairtrade counterpart, it is important to remember that often this is because producers are paid enough to be able to sustain themselves and their families, which is otherwise not the case with non-Fairtrade products. Buyers of Fairtrade products must pay a minimum price towards producers. The minimum price is set based on a consultative process with Fairtrade farmers, workers and traders to ensure that they can build a decent livelihood off of their wage.
Many Fairtrade products are priced comparably to non-Fairtrade products, with Fair Trade organisations working directly with producers, and cutting out middlemen, to ensure that products are affordable while the producers are still paid decently.
Myth #5 Fairtrade takes away jobs from Australians
It can be easy to criticise Fairtrade initiatives overseas as harmful to Australian businesses and the Australian economy but the reality is that many Australian industries have long been moved off-shore in order to cut production costs. For example, garment production for Australian companies in Bangladesh has increased 1,500% since 2008. Generally, these industries are not employing Australians because production costs in Australia are too high. Fairtrade seeks to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor in countries who are often exploited by these industries by offering ethical alternatives to fast fashion.
At the end of the day, the choice often isn’t between Australian-made and Fairtrade, but is instead between Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade.
Myth #6 Fairtrade is a form of charity
Although Fairtrade and charity are both similar in their pursuit to improve the livelihood of workers everywhere, Fairtrade is not charity. Simply put, charity is about giving help (typically through monetary means), and Fairtrade is about paying workers a fair wage and empowering them to be able to help themselves.
Fairtrade promotes a long-term and sustainable method of change through trade-based mechanisms that aim to pay a fair wage for work done. However, many Fairtrade organisations do support the Fairtrade premium—an additional paid sum that goes beyond a fair price into a communal fund for workers to use on projects that improve their social, economic and environmental conditions as they see fit.
—By Nathaniel Sage, Vivian Xin and Rebekah de Keijzer.
Interested in learning more about fair trade? Check out DUSA’s Fair Trade Vision Burwood today!