We hear a lot about “Fair Trade” when it comes to purchasing food, textiles, and other goods. But what does it mean, exactly?
Here’s the low-down on 10 principles of Fair Trade, according to the World Fair Trade Organization:
1. Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
The first principle of Fair Trade involves supporting and providing opportunities to smaller producers and manufacturers. This means giving your business to these marginalized suppliers and thereby helping their families and communities to break out of the poverty cycle.
We love and appreciate this principle because as we work with small manufacturing companies in Nepal and India, we get to help grow their businesses as well as our own. We hope our customers know that by purchasing a Rice Love bag, they don’t just help to feed a family in India, but they help to support local small businesses as well.
2. Transparency and Accountability
We’ve all had a job at some time or another where we felt like just another cog in the machine, like our opinions and ideas didn’t really matter. We think the principle of Transparency and Accountability is great because it’s all about striving for clear and open communication throughout the supply chain and helping employees and other participants in the organization stay involved in the decision-making processes.
If you’re working for or with an organization or business, you want to know what’s going on, especially when it affects you personally. Here at Rice Love, we strive to maintain open communication with our employees, and work to build better relationships with the other organizations that we work with.
3. Fair Trading Practices
This principle builds off of the previous one, in that it involves maintaining trusting and respectful relationships with trading partners - keeping your word, making payments and shipments on time, and treating others with dignity and respect. In essence, you could say that this principle boils down to integrity, which is something that we value highly.
4. Fair Payment
The principle of fair payment has 2 main components: fair prices and fair wages.
- A fair price includes a fair wage and a fair profit, and it is agreed upon by the buyer and the seller.
- A fair wage is an equitable and mutually agreed-upon wage that represents at least the amount of the local Living Wage. Equitable means that women and men are paid the same wage for the same work. The local living wage is the amount earned in a standard working week that is sufficient to provide a decent standard of living.
5. No Child Labor and No Forced Labor
This principle is pretty self-explanatory, but it is very important. We have personally visited and inspected the facilities of the manufacturers we work with to ensure that there are no children present, and our bags are only made by workers who are paid and working of their own free will.
6. Non Discrimination, Gender Equity, Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association
This principle involves a commitment to non discriminatory practices when it comes to hiring, promotion, termination, or retirement. We stand by this principle as well as the principles of gender equity and women’s empowerment. Most of our bags are made by women, enabling them to provide for themselves and their families and gain access to resources and new skills for their own empowerment. Empowering women around the world is one of our goals here at Rice Love.
Freedom of Association means that employees within Fair Trade organizations are free to form and participate in trade unions of their choice.
7. Ensuring Good Working Conditions
One of the principles of Fair Trade that most of us are familiar with is that the working conditions where the goods are produced must be healthy and safe. More specifically, this means that they meet the standards of the local laws as well as the standards of the International Labor Organization.
8. Providing Capacity Building
An organization that supports Fair Trade practices seeks to develop the skills and capabilities of its own employees, as well as those of any small producers it may be working with.
Here at Rice Love, we’re still growing and have just a small team of employees, but we seek to provide them with the resources and training that they need to grow right along with us.
One of the manufacturers we work with started out as a 2-person workshop making bags and selling them on the streets in Nepal, but by working with them we have been able to help them to increase their capacity for production by providing phones, fans, and other pieces of equipment needed. It has been a privilege for us to see their business grow along with ours.
9. Promoting Fair Trade
Promoting Fair Trade means that the organization strives to spread the message of Fair Trade by providing information about it and using only honest advertising and marketing.
10. Respect for the Environment
Organizations that follow this principle seek to minimize their environmental impact, reduce energy consumption where possible, to maximize the use of raw materials, and to buy locally where possible.
This principle could look different for everyone. For us, we strive to make the most out of the materials available on this planet by making most of our products from recycled materials. We also buy the rice locally that is donated to the families that our customers help to feed.
Look for the values beyond the logo
Several organizations provide the use of their “Fair Trade” logo upon certifying a factory’s products. Each “Fair Trade” organization approaches it in a different way. Some consumers think that a product with a Fair Trade logo on it means that a product or business has more integrity. This may not be entirely true. Certification alone doesn't guarantee all actions, ethics or practices. Many factories exceed Fair Trade standards, yet do not pursue certification. During our own pursuit for certification, we have been disappointed by the emphasis on certain criteria (such as the cost for small manufacturers like us) and omittance of other criteria (such as recycling and giving back). We have chosen to pursue Fair Trade certification when our volume is large enough to justify the cost. For now, we continue to embody these principles in every way that we can.
We hope that this blog post has provided you with a little more insight into what it means for a product or an organization to be “Fair Trade”, as well as a better look at the values that drive our business decisions for the benefit of the people and the planet.
If you have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate ask! Feel free to send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rice Love team
Resources: World Fair Trade Organization