Relevant to our inquiry, we heard and saw firsthand the multitude of issues Fair Trade addresses: defining a “living wage” in a local context; upholding human rights, women’s rights, child rights, labor rights, indigenous rights, land rights and fishing rights; embracing environmental protection and sustainability; promoting grassroots community development; and so on. We have also witnessed that maintaining Fair Trade principles in local organizations leads directly to higher achievements of people’s empowerment and social integration through unity for a common good with respect and human dignity.
However, this hasn’t been the extent of our experience. We have also met other members of the Fair Trade movement. Most notably are the Fair Trade Organizations (FTOs), the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) which support producers. This includes the organizational leaders, management teams, trainers and staff. Secondly, we have met the Fair Trade supporters, advocates, innovators and marketers. The lessons they have shared with us have proven to be equally important in our attempt to understand and present the Fair Trade movement from the perspective of the South.
How to localize Fair Trade?
For an FTO to maintain its principles, it must ensure that its supply chain is also clear from exploitation, environmental degradation and child labor amongst many other ethical prerequisites. This means that local FTOs must engage with the community businesses and suppliers, and in the process introduce a completely new approach to conducting business. Often it will be the first time in the South for a small local business to be required to sign long term-contracts with stipulations guaranteeing materials are coming from sustainable recourses free from exploitation and that women are paid and treated equally within their workplace. In the very act of doing business, local FTOs become advocates for changing local business practices.
How to advocate for Fair Trade:
Admittedly, for every step forward, there can be three steps back. The next year they privatized many of the food services on campus, so the following Fair Trade Advocates had to confront Starbucks and the initiative continues on. Regardless, we raised awareness personally and directly with many students who have now moved on in their professional lives. Perhaps some of them are involved in Fair Trade now, I don’t know, but what we did was advocacy over a cup of coffee that changed a campus. Recently the University of Southern California in San Diego , California became the Most Fair Trade campus in the USA. How many campuses in the South are Fair Trade? The South produces many Fair Trade products for consumption in the North; there is a need to expand Southern advocacy efforts in this direction. Network with campus movements in the North; get their support and tips on how to bring social change!
Fair Trade Advocacy Matrix
Global Exchange also provides a How-to Guide that shows what you can do to promote Fair Trade Products:
Equal Exchange is another resource rich website for advocates: http://www.equalexchange.coop/
Thank you for joining us in this journey. Feel free to follow this blog and to add your comments, ideas or suggestions as we go.
Mitch Teberg, MA