When living our lives in America, it's easy to walk into any super store or go onto amazon and view your products and forget, that every item that you buy has been touched by a human.
In this article we are going to over, What is Fair Trade, Why we should fair trade and How to know your product is Fair Traded.
What is Fair Trade you might ask? It is a commitment to making sure that the people who are growing our crops, making our home goods, and sewing our clothes are given basic human rights. Fair Trade focuses to make sure that people in developing nations have these 3 basic human needs.
- Economics - Making sure that all factories workers and farmers meet a minimum wage standard that more equally distributes the wealth of the trade.
- Social - Keeping an ethical and moral high ground by not allowing children to work in there factories and farms and disassociation with gender, race and religious prejudice. Making sure that the workers are given the option to form unions to allow them the opportunity create there own rights
- Environmental - By using environmentally friendly techniques like organic farming and not clear cutting forest , we are allowing the people in developing countries to keep their waterways clean and there homeland intact.
Often times the products that we are buying whether it’s clothing, furniture or homegoods, comes from developing countries. Unlike in America, there are little to none monitored regulations on working conditions and set minimum wages, making working conditions and pay unpredictable. Often times we see dangerous, sometimes deadly working conditions for such small amounts of money, that the employees can barely provide food and shelter for themselves and their families and often go into dept, while working 80+ hours a week. Large corporations often try to keep this knowledge unknown to the general public.
Why should Fair Trade be the only option? By defining fairtrade, we can see why it should be standard in most factories, but the sad reality is that most major box stores and huge online retailers, do not comply to these measures. Here we can see some of the dangerous and hazerdous conditions that most of your homegoods, clothing and food are coming from.
There are many hazards to working in large factories, that make goods for the fast fashion and home industry, with large equipment and large overpacked warehouses, that are made with substandard unmet building codes, can lead to huge disasters, in 2013, a factory that makes clothing for H&M, Walmart, Gap collapsed due to know natural disaster during a standard work day. The over crowded building there was a loss of over 1,100 deaths in one day. The New York times has reported that workers in countries such as Cambodia work 10 to 14 hour days in overcrowded warehouses with no air conditioning in sweltering heat, with no access to clean drinking water. In Thailand, we find reports of employees having long lasting health defects because of the lack of regulation and safety precaution in chemical dye plants. This is only a small handful of the dangers of oversea working conditions in factories.
On many/most occasions, employees are afraid to speak out about the injustices the face and starting unions. The threat of losing wages, your job or being beaten or even killed are such real possibilities, it’s often hard to get straight answers from employees, or to start unions that could potentially improve and save the lives of so many employees. Many of these factory owners, work under a mob like mentality, having payed henchman, who threaten and harass employees or bribing local authorities to imprison who are willing to speak out.
We can see a real testament of a factory employee who lead the way to her place of employment into being unionized. Aleya Akter started her career in factories at the age of 9 years old, her knowledge of reading was only as good as being able to tell the difference between the sizes S, M, L and XL. Born to a poor agricultural workers, she began her career young to help ease the extreme poverty of the the family. In 2006 at the age of 22 she began trying to form a union that would allow workers to work 8 hours a day, receive overtime and allowed women to have fair wages. On her pursuit to start her Union she was harassed daily by hired henchmen and management, suspended from work without pay for 22 days and severely beaten on 3 occasions, once while in the presence of police who did nothing to Aid her. Today Aleya is one of the few lucky factory worker who has ended up on the other side, she now works as an executive for the Union of her factory. Through her struggles she was able to provide large improvements to to her factory, a yearly salary increase of 12%, maternity leave and festival bonuses. These improvements are good, but we have to see more globally for the lives of employees to get better.
This knowledge is uneasy to read, How do we buy products under a good conscious knowing that the people who are making them are treated fairly? We do research in our products and make sure that the company is fair trade certified. Fair Trade is a global movement made up of diverse network of producers, companies, consumers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first. Fairtrade supports and challenges businesses and governments while connecting farmers and workers with the people who buy their products. When you find a product that is fair trade certified, we can have a guarantee that small producers, farmers and hired factory employees are given safe, healthy working conditions, proper training to work equipment safely, manageable working hours with overtime and are given fair livable wages that allows workers in developing nations to provide appropriate shelter, food and education for themselves, their families and local community.
There are lots of organizations, that maintain factory and farming standards, in developing countries that can guarantee an ethical purchase. Here is a list of a few fair trade certifications, that guarantee an ethical purchase that puts people first,
When in doubt, if your favorite small brand has ethical standards when making their product, It is always worth going to there about section and reading more about the brand. If it's unclear most brands will take the time to answer your questions. It is always worth shooting an email and asking.
By supporting the fair trade global community we are allowing developing nations a fighting chance at making a sustainable lifestyle for themselves and future generations to come.