Happy Fall! As the semester kicks off, I just wanted to take this chance to talk about fair trade and some of the common questions and misconceptions the topic faces. This is an important topic to talk about because many people don’t fully understand fair trade.
Starting with the basics, the definition of fair trade is a way of buying and selling in which fair wages are paid to producers in developing countries. Fair trade is a powerful tool to reduce poverty through your everyday shopping.
Wisconsin Without Borders Marketplace sells products from artisans in underdeveloped communities around the world, boasting six main sites in Ecuador, Kenya, and Mexico. The artisans are paid fairly for their work and we are able to sell their products in Madison, Wisconsin and online around the United States to help our international partners generate additional income for education, healthcare and the other needs in their communities.
Do Fair Trade products cost more than conventional products?
Fair trade products are not necessarily more expensive, as they are competitively priced with similar high quality products. However, fair trade items are likely more expensive than cheap, mass-produced items. Additionally, while fair trade items can appear more costly, it is likely that they will last longer than a low-quality item. This can be a small price to pay, in knowing that your purchase is helping build and develop sustainable businesses and communities around the world.
Does fair trade pay developed world wages in developing countries?
The reality is that wages offer fair compensation according to the true cost of production in the country of production, and are not based on first world country wage standards. Metrics that go into determining fair wages include the amount of time, skill, and effort in the making of the products, as well as the usual living wages in the area in which the product is made. A lot of the wages of our artisans are determined with our partners because our artisan partners have businesses of their own. Our goal is to empower them through collaboration with the students, faculty and staff on campus at UW-Madison.
Is fair trade a form of charity?
On the contrary, fair trade serves as a vehicle to help individuals and groups in developing countries become self-sufficient and empowered with their own businesses. Our artisans often use the money they make to support their communities, by enabling local children to attend school, paying for the fees and materials, financing rebuilding efforts following an earthquake or even supporting the operations of local museums. The success of fair trade is not measured by donations received, but rather the independence that the artisans can achieve.
Hopefully I have helped to answer a few of the questions you have about fair trade! Our nonprofit student organization is committed to maintaining fair trade practices to continue to make an impact economically, socially and environmentally in our community and our global artisans’ communities, alike.