Who benefits from Fair Trade?
Everyone in the “value chain” benefits from fair trade. Here is a breakdown of the benefactors:
Producers become partners with retailers or wholesalers, and stop being “assets” of corporations. They are paid a fair wage for their work and work in a safe environment. They are encouraged to be proud of what they do, and are treated with respect and honesty.
In addition, farmers and artisans are educated about the international markets and trends. This helps them understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. They are able to make products that align with the taste of the end-consumers in North America, Europe or the Pacific Rim. Eventually, they are able to become self-sustainable and can grow their partner/customer base.
Moreover, they benefit from the development help that some wholesalers and retailers give them. The disadvantaged farmers and artisans are aided with advanced payments, access to micro-credit, health insurance or other social projects, so that they have a basic level of development. This provides them with a platform from which they can improve their lifestyle and rise above poverty. At the same time, it makes them more efficient, and it empowers them so that they can participate in global trade without worrying too much about their financial security, health or safety.
Sales of eco-friendly and fairly traded products are growing in the United States as consumers begin to ask where their products are coming from, what types of materials they are made out of and whether their purchases are making a difference in the world. This increase in demand of socially and environmentally responsible products benefits wholesalers and retailers of fair trade. Many of these companies (for-profit and non-profit) have experienced growth, even in times of recession. This trend is quantifiable, with numbers looking like this:
- In 2006, the World Fair Trade Organization members sold $2.6 billion in fair trade sales
- There was an amazing 47% increase in 2007, with WFTO members’ sales amounting to over $3.62 billion. You can read more information about these global figures in the Fair Trade Labeling International’s annual reports.
- In 2006, Fair Trade Federation members sold $160+ million of fair trade products
- 93% – growth in the global fair trade cocoa sector in 2006, according to the Fair Trade Labelling Organization. In 2006, coffee has also grown by 53%; tea by 41%; and, bananas by 31%.
In a 2007 BBMG Conscious Consumer report, the following trends stand out:
- 39% identify as “socially responsible”
- 37% identify as “conscious consumers”
- 34% identify as “environmentally-friendly”
- 87% support fair labor and trade practices
- 81% identify fair wages and safe working environment as a top issue in the world
At the same time, wholesalers and retailers have a chance to participate in a market-based solution to poverty. They develop meaningful relationships with producers and customers, which allows them to feel a sense of self-realization and peace of mind.
Finally, retailers and wholesalers who participate in the fair trade or green industries benefit from a positive image. This helps increase customer loyalty and draws positive attention from the public and the press, further increasing the popularity of the fair trade movement.
End-customers can find satisfaction in fair trade products across different dimensions. The first and way is by feeling the gratification of participating in a movement where every dollar spent counts as a vote. This vote reflects the customers’ choice to support ethical companies and make a difference in the life of a farmer or an artisan.
Secondly, customers are able to get a unique item. The handmade nature of many crafts, either ornamental or functional (like a laptop bag) make them different from anything else. At the same time, the manufactured goods can be of great quality, since artisans make them in favorable conditions, motivating them to give it their best effort. Moreover, natural and recycled materials are used, making many products environmentally friendly and safe to use.