Monday, October 17, 2011

Fair Trade IS A Market Force

Once I landed on a website whose author bashed those who deliberately seek Certified Fair Trade products. This person sees inherent wisdom in the free market and thinks Fair Trade Certification implies there is something wrong with the market. Ten years later that article still sticks in my brain like a splinter because I think it sorely misses the point.

Fair Trade consumers are not rejecting the market - we are using it. We have decided that living wages, no forced or child labor, environmental sustainability, and transparency are market forces worthy of our consumer spending. Why are price, quality, and brand considered valid market forces but a guarantee that goods were not produced in sweatshops is something that starts with a c and ends with Gorbachev? Think about it.

And I would argue that Fair Trade participation in the market is pure because vendors do not rely on government subsidies, which is more than we can say for some too big to fail industries. Yes, living wages are set in the Fair Trade system, but consumers turn that into a market force, not governments.

Has our culture become so divided that we'd rather trade -isms than consider the substance behind another's values when they differ from our own?


October is Fair Trade Month

App Source: Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade certification and membership organizations all agree on these basic Fair Trade principles:

-Long-term direct trading relationships
-Prompt payment of fair prices and wages
-No child, forced or otherwise exploited labor
-Workplace non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association
-Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours
-Investment in community development projects
-Environmental sustainability
-Traceability and transparency

* Source  Fair World Project

reduce the the solution


  1. Seriously, someone was upset about people who purposely pursue fair trade products? Isn't that a little bit like being mad at someone who is trying to cure cancer? The nerve of them! LOL Wow. I have only the most rudimentary understandng of the fair trade movement but from what I can tell, it is just allowing people around the world to participate fully (and equally!!) in the "free market" that everyone seems to love so darn much. I'm not an economist. It just seems like common sense to me.

  2. Yep, it is true. I used that person's article as an example because there are a lot of people who say that. With that person, I think it was also a value judgement - that we shouldn't care about fair wages and sweatshops.

  3. I think the irrational rejection of fair trade and ethical economics really stems from the phobia about 'socialism' (from what I see in the American political debate). The "defenders of capitalism at all costs" probably think fair trade is a cover for price-fixing. Setting an ethical floor for prices paid to suppliers does, I suppose, fit that criteria...But the alternative then is the sweat-shops and child-labour or just 'using the market forces' to exploit half a world of non-western people who will accept wages far below those we have spent centuries fighting for in the West. I wonder if there has ever been a time when "free market forces" really have prevailed - seems like big companies have found ways to keep wages low and prices high since the birth of capitaism back in the 1300's in Europe...And as my son reminds me, when Nike took all their factories out of the States to China and pennies-per-hour wage costs, their shoes didn't come down a cent for buyers in the US and Canada?!

  4. I don't think Fair Trade is socialist because consumers and vendors set pricing. It would only be socialist if governments interfered in that process and they do not. This is why Fair Trade fits perfectly into the capitalist, free-market system. The ethical platform costructed by vendors and consumers just becomes a legitimate market force that influences pricing and supply and demand. The describes market force as: "Forces of demand and supply representing the aggregate influence of self-interested buyers and sellers on price and quantity of the goods and services offered in a market." Fair Trade fits into that definition.

    I believe in the free market and object to government interference in pricing. I also believe in the power of the market to be fair and make a better world. But that can only happen through people, not governments. When enough people choose to vote with their dollars every day - that's when the free market changes the world for the better.

  5. I'm shocked to hear theres apparently more than one idiot with this kind of opinion, but I think it's safe to say the economic credibility of the fair trade concept is right there in the name. FAIR TRADE. As bewitchingreality says, it's 'just' allowing people to trade their goods fairly. As opposed to being cheated by those richer than them. 'Fairness' is being used as a USP for the product, and consumers pay more for it.

  6. I agree tegantallullah, that Fair Trade is inherent in the name.

    Ten years ago Fair Trade goods were so expensive that many people were outpriced. But I've noticed as demand for these products increased the cost has come closer to par with mainstream products, but still more expensive. I've decided that I'd rather have three pairs of Fair Trade socks than six pairs of regular socks made under God knows what conditions. That's how I make it work. I buy and use less but pay a bit more. This is my market force.

    I noticed the definition of market force listed above says, "representing the aggregate influence of self-interested buyers and sellers...". In Fair Trade people may define "self-interest" differently than the average buyer. For the average buyer self-interest may be limited to price, brand, and/or quality. Fair Traders believe if growers and artisans are taken advantage of by middlemen that harms us, too. We think if stuff is mass produced in environmentally harmful ways that is against our self-interest, so we seek other alternatives. We delve into the social aspects and environmental impacts of production more than the average consumer.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...