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November 05, 2020
Fair Trade is a term that gets tossed around quite often. When you stroll up and down the aisles in Whole Foods, for example, you might hear someone talking about Fair Trade and asking for Fair Trade products. However, if you've never heard of Fair Trade, you've likely seen multiple items with Fair Trade labels and have wondered whether or not you should buy them.
While most people have had some kind of exposure to Fair Trade goods, there's still a little uncertainty about why you should buy these types of items. These products are indeed a part of a good cause. But unless you've researched the purpose and principles of Fair Trade, you may be wondering what that good cause is and if it's worth your support.
With a little insight, though, you might find that purchasing and supporting Fair Trade goods is the right decision for you. In fact, if you're part of the 70 percent of consumers who want to buy from brands that address social and environmental causes, then you may conclude that buying Fair Trade products is not just the right decision but the best one you can make.
What is Fair Trade?
When you purchase Fair Trade products, you help guarantee that the producers of those products get a fair share of the profits as well as other benefits that help them live sustainable lives. Some of those advantages include good working conditions, training, and resources that strengthen workers’ communities.
However, providing all of those benefits is why you notice a higher price tag on Fair Trade goods. For example, when you go into a grocery store, you may see one bag of coffee for $7 per pound and another one—that's the exact same size—for $15 per pound. While the $8 difference might seem alarming, the price is simply a reflection of the company's desire to treat its producers justly.
With Fair Trade, workers in developing countries get the wages and benefits that they deserve. And this opportunity was not always available for producers in developing countries.
The History of Fair Trade
Before the Fair Trade movement began in the 1950s, it was common for foreigners to exploit workers in developing countries.
Similar to today, foreigners would travel to other countries for various purposes. But during their trip, some of them noticed that farmers and artisans struggled to cover the cost of their business.
Many travelers tried to help by purchasing some of the goods and returning home to sell them for a much higher price. Afterward, they'd share the profits with the producers in the developing countries, but this process quickly led to exploitation.
With no way to confirm that the artisans and farmers were getting a fair share of the profits, foreigners travelers could pocket all of the money without repercussions. It wasn't until the 1990s when Paul Rice established Fair Trade USA that this problem was eliminated.
At the time, Rice was collaborating with coffee farmers in Nicaragua, and he wanted to develop guidelines that could help govern international trade. This desire quickly led to the Fair Trade Certification.
In 1997, Rice started meeting with large U.S. corporations that sold goods like tea, bananas, and cocoa. And he introduced these businesses to the certification and Fair Trade model.
During Rice's conversations with company executives, he not only explained the importance of selling ethical products under Fair Trade, but he also persuaded them to educate consumers by having the Fair Trade Seal on their products. With the benefits clear and understood, it wasn't long before major companies got on board. Some of the first brands to sell Fair Trade products was Whole Foods Market, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and Numi Tea.
The positive impact of Fair Trade
Since the development of Fair Trade USA, workers in developing countries have experienced significant benefits. However, what's even better is that other countries have adopted the Fair Trade model.
In Eswatini, a country in Southern Africa that's formerly known as Swaziland, there's an organization called SWIFT. This organization stands for Swaziland Fair Trade, and it runs on the same principles as Fair Trade USA.
It's model and members provide a better quality of life to the people in Eswatini, and the businesses that are a part of SWIFT are truly committed to making a difference. In fact, when you buy products from Fair Trade companies that are members of SWIFT, you help businesses have a direct impact on three key areas.
Every business that's a member of SWIFT is obligated to provide fair wages to its workers, regardless of their title. This standard is incredibly important to the people in Eswatini because 58.9 percent of citizens are living below the national poverty line.
To put that number in perspective, most people in Eswatini are living on less than U.S. $1.9 per day. And another 20 percent are trying to survive on even less.
However, SWIFT members are passionate about paying workers a livable wage. And through SWIFT, Swazis can make significantly more money to support themselves and their families.
Currently, producers in the SWIFT network are making an average of 2x more than the government's minimum wage. That income is what will help eliminate the poverty crisis in Eswatini and uplift the people.
SWIFT members are also having a significant effect on community development. Eswatini is considered a lower-middle-income country, and its population currently stands at 1.1 million.
According to the 2019 Human Development Index, Eswatini ranks 138 out of 189 countries. Due to a lack of financial resources and other factors, 26% of children under five are experiencing chronic malnutrition.
Developing Eswatini into a successful country is paramount to the members of SWIFT. The businesses that are selling Fair Trade products through SWIFT want to ensure that its workers live in communities that are ripe with opportunities and resources that allow them to grow and thrive in life.
This passion is why SWIFT members have helped develop 330 new jobs since 2011. It's also why Eswatini has had the opportunity to create 25 new businesses since SWIFT's founding in 2011.
Every country has its own culture, and international trade gives you the opportunity to experience that reality. However, sometimes, businesses can try to push new technologies, processes, and developments onto its workers. And while this practice may be accepted if the workers are a part of the same culture, it might not be well-received by those outside of that culture.
Members of SWIFT are not interested in stripping away or neglecting the culture in Eswatini. If workers and producers have a particular way of making their products, the businesses that join SWIFT honor and celebrate those processes. These brands uplift the local culture and give workers a sense of pride in what they're doing.
And if workers want to learn new techniques to accompany their traditional ones, they're more than welcome to do so. SWIFT has provided over 900 hours of training, mentoring, and coaching—and these opportunities allow members and producers to enhance efficiency while keeping their culture front and center.
Why You Should Buy Fair Trade
You can see the importance of Fair Trade in several aspects of life, including the wages that people earn, the development of impoverished communities, and the local cultures that continue to thrive. However, to ensure people in developing countries experience the benefits of Fair Trade, it's crucial for you to buy Fair Trade products.
For an easy way to do this, you can buy jewelry and home deécor from Khutsala™ Artisans. As a member of SWIFT, Khutsala Artisans ensure Swazis receive livable wages as well as opportunities and resources to develop their communities. What's even better is that Khutsala Artisans embraces the local culture by encouraging workers to craft handmade jewelry inspired by Swazi traditions and lifestyle.
Your purchase plays a direct role in helping Swazis live a life that supports themselves and their families. When you buy from Khutsala Artisans, you're giving the people in Eswatini a chance to make money, build their community, and share their local culture with others.
Don't miss the chance to make a positive impact on developing countries and their future generations. If you want to help uplift people who lack sustainable livelihoods, buy Fair Trade products. Whether it's jewelry, coffee, or tea, your purchase will not go unnoticed. Shop with Purpose today at www.khutsala.com.
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