It is world Fair Trade day, so we thought we would look at the organisation that is moving to change how we exchange goods and money.
The origins of the movement are date from the mid-20th century. Awareness grew as several initiatives were set up around this time, including Oxfam who began buying Chinese crafts from refugees to sell on. The charity went on to establish the Fair-Trade Organisation in 1964. Similar organisations were spring up in parallel, particularly in the Netherlands, where Fair Trade Original, an importing group, was opened in 1967.
Built on the values of partnership, dialogue, transparency, and respect, the movement blossomed in the 60’s and 70’s as the public became more aware. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) made further connections with similar groups, allowing more partnerships to form between importers and producers. These connections were global in proportion and provided a blueprint for a more inclusive way of looking at world markets.
Initially the focus was on craft products linked with the idea of alleviating poverty and supporting disaster-stricken areas. Poverty relief was a key topic at the time, with large international groups convening to address the issue and more popular efforts such as Live Aid. Craft items were particularly beneficial as they could provide supplementary income to families already in employment as well as those headed by women.
Food goods became more popular, with coffee being one of the headline items. Coffee represents a large percentage of the income for fair trade organisations. With this success the trading groups experimented with commodities such as tea, sugar, and fruit juices. Consumers were incredibly supportive of these products which is why they are generally associated with the term ‘fair trade’.
Fair trade, as a way of supporting communities, can be seen as a success. It proves that by considering supply chains and the original producer, we can improve livelihoods around the world whilst still retaining access to cherished products. In practice, it will play an important part in any shift towards a sustainable economy.