I have been wanting to get on and write a piece on Fair Trade for anybody who is unsure what exactly that means. When I first learned of the issue of unfair wages and labor conditions I thought everybody should know of these injustices and that there are options. However, I found myself still learning so much and felt a bit inadequate to be the one teaching on this quite yet.
In my journey of wanting to know more I was blessed to meet a wonderful lady who is doing great things bringing awareness to everybody that will listen and desires to live it out. Elisha Chan runs a fair trade online and pop-up shop with the best items from the Haitian people. She also is a leader with the network, Fair Trade LA and works closely with Fair Trade Certified. So, I thought who better to answer the questions many are asking, probably more in their head than out loud.
Elisha, thank you for taking this time! Please explain to us the how and whys of Fair Trade.
Thank you Terry! Yes I would love to.
Growing up, I’ve always wanted to make a positive impact in the world. When I was in middle school, I helped paint houses in the inner city of San Francisco. When I was in high school, I donated to different causes. When I was a freshman at UCLA, I volunteered in the Dominican Republic to build a school (yes, making actual concrete blocks!) and teaching English. When I was a sophomore at UCLA (until now), I serve a small village in Haiti by starting a scholarship program. I grew up learning that in order to make a difference, it takes big gestures like traveling abroad.
It wasn’t until I learned about Fair Trade that I realized we can make a huge impact in ending poverty simply through our everyday purchases. There is a famous quote by Anna Lappe, “Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.” To me, buying fair trade is the way I can create a better world through the way I invest my money. Luckily, we now have more access than ever to Fair Trade products and opportunities to advance the Fair Trade movement.
So what does Fair Trade mean anyways?
Simply put, if you find a product that has a Fair Trade logo on it, it means that it is Fair Trade Certified and is produced under the conditions of the following 10 principles:
1. Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers.
2. Be transparent and accountable.
3. Conduct fair trade practices
4. Pay promptly and fairly.
5. Guard against child labor and forced labor.
6. Promote gender equality and non-discrimination.
7. Ensure safe working conditions.
8. Build capacity to help producers grow their businesses.
9. Raise awareness about fair trade.
10. Respect for the environment.
These principles may seem like common sense. Everyone should already be working under these conditions, right? But unfortunately, that is not the case in our world. According to Polaris, “Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 14.2 million people trapped in forced labor in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work, and manufacturing.” And this sad reality is driven by our demand for cheap products, where the tradeoff often means people, including children trapped in forced labor around the world.
Here is the good news. We can now take action and fight for social justice wherever we live. There are now over 2000 designated Fair Trade towns over 40 countries in 6 continents. In the year 2000, the UK launched the first Fair Trade campaign to make Garstang a Fair Trade town. Since then, several countries have been designated Fair Trade, including Wales and Sweden. In the United States, we are also growing the Fair Trade movement through nearly 300 Fair Trade Campaigns on campuses and communities.
Fair Trade LA is a nonprofit working towards making Los Angeles the largest Fair Trade town in the United States! Based on our population, we need to identify 96 businesses in the LA area that sells at least two Fair Trade items and 96 locations to serve at least one Fair Trade item. Over the years, we have seen successful campaigns on campuses such as LMU and UCLA, as well as towns, such as Pasadena designated Fair Trade.
So what is your role in this global movement? What can you do to alleviate poverty by creating sustainable jobs in a fair and just way? Buy fair. Live fair. Shop the Fair Trade logos. Learn about the stories of the artisans and producers who made your products. If you want to do more, look for a local Fair Trade Campaign that you can be a part of or you can launch one wherever you are!
You and I have the power to change the world. Start with how you spend your money.