By Audrey Stanton
History of Fair Trade
According to the World Fair Trade Organization, the concept of Fair Trade began more than 60 years ago. The movement had its start in 1946, when the company Ten Thousand Villages (formerly Self Help Crafts) began buying needlework from Puerto Rico. At the same time, the nonprofit SERRV started trading with underserved communities in South America. The first shop which actually sold these Fair Trade items didn’t open until 1958. In the 1950s the UK joined the movement when Oxfam UK started selling crafts made by Chinese refugees in their brick and mortar shops. In 1964, Oxfam UK created the first Fair Trade organization, while the Netherlands followed suit in 1967 by establishing the importing organization Fairtrade Original. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) provided ‘advice, assistance, and support to disadvantaged producers’. Helping the Fair Trade movement to grow even more so. 1968 marked a significant shift in global mindsets as the UNCTAD conference (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in Delhi, India communicated the message “Trade Not Aid.” Since then, the concept and certifications surrounding Fair Trade have grown exponentially, serving millions of communities around the world by empowering makers and engaging in better trading practices.
Fair Trade Certified meaning
The scale of this movement is exciting and a bit confusing, due to the fact that there are many different labels and ideas to keep track of when purchasing a product. First, there is a difference between something being fair trade and something being Fair Trade Certified. The former can refer to a variety of products and is a bit more up to each consumer to define. The latter refers to a specific process. In which a brand, factory, or product has gone through in order to be deemed fairly traded. It is more difficult for clothing to receive Fair Trade status. Due to the fact that garment supply chains are incredibly complex, and therefore harder to keep track of.
Six aspects of Fair Trade Certification
Ethical online shop Fair Trade Winds has comprehensively broken down the 6 aspects of Fair Trade Certification;
- identifying the type of producer,
- determining the minimum price and Fair Trade premium,
- ensuring labor laws are being followed,
- setting the cost of inspection, certification, and licensing,
- inspecting the supply chain,
- and finally, ensuring that the end products are properly labeled.
Though this is the general process, each organization has its own system. All Fair Trade Certification entities have a similar goal of creating a better world through ethical trade. Fair Trade International focuses more on supporting sustainable development benefiting the world’s poorest communities. Fair Trade USA aims to use certifications as a way to create a social movement or ‘Fair Trade Lifestyle’ among conscious consumers. Lastly, Fair For Life takes a holistic approach to Fair Trade Certification; giving their approval to entire companies and supply chains.
While these operations may seem complicated, it is all essential to creating a system that consumers can rely upon. Without having to do a mountain of research themselves. Much of the public’s aversion to sustainable fashion is the learning curve which comes with transitioning to conscious consumption– Fair Trade Certifications eliminate the opportunity for unneeded stress among those new customers.