This is part of a series on "The Future of Fair Trade," written with the support of Fair Trade USA. A 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, Fair Trade USA is the leading third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. To follow along with the rest of the series, click here.
In honor of Fair Trade month, Fair Trade USA created a great infographic to explain how fair trade really works to improve workers' lives and, in turn, the health of our ecosystem. While certifications like Organic ensure that farmers and a consumer's family won't be exposed to harmful pesticides, Fair Trade USA focuses on the producers and the well-being of their families. What organizations like Fair Trade have found is that a focus on the health of workers far up the supply chain leads directly to a higher-quality product and a healthy planet. That is to say, Fair Trade goes full circle. Here's how they do it.
Workers and farmers decide collectively how to spend the Fair Trade premium on community development: building schools, clinics, improving roads, offering school scholarships, or whatever the community needs.
With each year that passes, each Fair Trade community strengthens, improving life for its members en masse.
Indirectly, the fair trade model pays farmers a living wage, which means land owners can invest in sustainable agricultural practices like crop rotation and allowing land to go fallow, which will protect the sustainable resource over time.
In one example from a coffee grower in Honduras, the process of becoming Fair Trade itself had a positive impact on the environment: The farmers switched to processing coffee cherries in a central facility instead of each farmer processing cherries at home, which meant less pollution and more drinking water for the community. The central facility uses non-potable water from a nearby river rather than the town's drinking water to process the cherries. In addition, they are treating and filtering their wastewater so that it doesn't pollute the river when it is returned to it.
Jenna Larson, public relations manager for Fair Trade USA, explained how Fair Trade leads to better coffee in a recent article:
Farmers today understand that investing in quality is critical to their long-term survival in the business. Similarly, coffee buyers know that working closely with producers through Fair Trade is a great way to develop the quality of the coffee they serve to the world.
So, it's obvious that Fair Trade is a good choice to make whenever you have the opportunity. Do your part and look for the label during fair trade month and beyond!
Images courtesy of Fair Trade USA
Jen Boynton is the former Editor-in-Chief of TriplePundit. She has an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School and has helped organizations including SAP, PwC and Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. She is based in San Diego, California. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA (court appointed special advocate) for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.