Conscious consumption: the importance of Fairtrade
By: Francesca Gugino
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Consumer culture calls for buyers to seek the newest trends and to also purchase what they need at affordable prices. The increase in competition may seem to be what is driving prices of many imported goods down, but the truth is that developing countries have been exploited by the “First World”. These people, who we as consumers employ to make the goods we buy at a cheap price, are often times overworked, undercompensated and living and working in unsafe conditions. More often than not American society chooses not to address these issues because we benefit from low prices and access to everything that we could ever want. This leads to dissociation between the maker of products and the consumption itself, without knowing where our goods come from we are doing many people a great disservice. We are enabling the horrible conditions that they face and allowing corporations to make big money while those at the bottom aren’t making enough to get by. Whether it’s grocery stores, malls, superstores or online, consumers need to be more aware of how their purchases are affecting the lives of others.
There are many alternatives to evade perpetuating the conditions that many workers face. Although Fairtrade has been considered a great option in theory, there are many who are skeptical and critical of its implementation.
What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is a global movement that focuses on the benefit of farmers and workers. The name speaks for it all. Fairtrade is about equality and justice in the exchange of goods. It allows for producers, predominantly people in foreign countries who would otherwise be taken advantage of, to receive the proper compensation for their labor and goods
- – Providing independent certification of the product supply chain through FLOCERT. Fairtrade America licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark, which appears on a product as assurance for consumers that the product meets the internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards.
- – Help in growing demand for Fairtrade products and empowering producers to sell their goods in the United States.
- – Working with businesses and nonprofit organizations to support producer organizations and their networks.
- – Raising awareness of the needs of small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries and supporting efforts to make trade fair.
Downfalls of Fairtrade:
Many supporters of the theory of fair trade are not necessarily keen on its practice. This stems mostly from the problems that many small producers have faced. Latin America has encountered issues in its production of cocoa, soy, quinoa and coffee. Producers, through the implementation of Fairtrade. This is because there is a minimum quota in order for producers to qualify for fair trade, because the markets for goods is so large. Flaws in the implementation of Fairtrade, which have caused producers and small farmers to suffer, lead consumers to turn to organic produce as the best alternative. Buying organic means that we are able to support the small producers and workers who are not under the rule of a major corporation and also help to end the system of oppression that American consumerism perpetuates.
After meeting with Dr. Mayorga, Assistant Professor of Spanish. Latin American Studies Director at Niagara University, he stated that students should research before they buy and read the entire label when in stores, as advertisement can be deceiving. Buying organic product is also better for one’s personal health and wellbeing, as there are no pesticides sprayed during growth. The best advice that can be given to college students is to practice mindfulness and purchase after researching and examining labels.
Mindfulness in practice:
Recently I have pledged to stop purchasing goods from companies that are not on the Fairtrade standard or are not listed as ethical companies. After my conversation with Dr. Mayorga I have continued to purchase Fairtrade and Slavery Free clothing, but shift toward organic produce as often as I can.
My most recent Fair Trade purchase is a pair of boots from Oliberte, a company based out of a factory in Ethiopia. The missions of the company is to support workers’ rights in sub-Sahara Africa. These boots are not only Fair Trade and ethically made, but also fashionable and affordable. My Oliberte boots cost $75 plus $9 for shipping, totaling to $84, which is an awesome deal for cute boots that are made ethically and resourcefully. (And I have received several compliments about them, which was a total plus!)
As students, we need to be mindful of the rights of other because buying something cheap does not mean that it is the right choice. For more information go to fairtradeamerica.org, endslaverynow.org or fairtradecertified.org. To practice mindfulness when purchasing clothing, you can download the Good On You App which enables users to search over 1,000 brands that are rated based on their labor ethics, animal ethics, and environmental impact.