Wednesday, 7 May 2008

What is fair trade? Or Fair Trade? Or Fairtrade?

An interesting read is a new article published at the NewConsumer.com website asking how aware the public might be about "what Fair Trade is"?

It's a good article which certainly raises the conciousness that the Fairtrade Foundation label means that the cotton in clothing may be Fairtrade certified but at present the manufacturing will not be, because right now there is no objective means of deciding what exactly Fair Trade is in a manufacturing context. It's all rather subjective.....

The article consistently capitalises Fair Trade - giving it the feel of something that is definite, defined, but I think the reason for this capitalisation in the article is because it's applied to Fair Trade in the context of IFAT - the global network of Fair Trade Organizations. Just as the Fairtrade Foundation certifies PRODUCTS for the UK market, IFAT certifies businesses (such as Divine Chocolate) and organisations (such as Oxfam UK).

The message in the article is that Fair Trade can apply and be certified in respect of the purchase of raw and close-to-raw materials but not after there has been any degree of manufacturing. So neither IFAT or the Fairtrade Foundation certify manufactured clothing. Fair Trade clothing does not exist. Let's talk about fair trade.

Yes we, and many companies like Pier 32, continue talk about fair trade because it is a concept that people can relate to - a phrase for us that means we care who we buy from and we'd like you to too. Whether it's Starworld in Egypt because of our close ties, Continental for their organic products, Wombat for their Fairtrade certified cotton, Adidas for its extensive and transparent monitoring programme, Gildan for its Fair Labor Association accreditation; all we can do is try and be as upfront as possible in sharing what we know. This information is largely shared in this blog - it can help you decide by your own fair trade standards what fair trade is and what you should buy.

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