Buying Fairtrade Products - Does It Make A Difference?
Fairtrade products are widely available in supermarkets and many people never notice the label or understand what it means. But buying fair-trade products can make a real difference not only to producers in developing and resource poor countries, but also to the environment. Although not all fairtrade companies are Carbon Neutral, some are and buying into fairtrade products is environmentally and ethically superior to buying mass-produced goods from companies concerned only for their own profits.
What Is Fairtrade?Fairtrade is a system of trading that was developed in the 1960s to help farmers, growers and producers in the developing world to get a fair price for the products exported from their countries. The concept was designed to allow small producers to export their products, not just large collectives, and to give consumers in other countries a range of products that were high quality and different from the mass produced items available from elsewhere.
In the UK, all products that are sold through the Fairtrade system are certified as being truly Fairtrade by the Fairtrade Foundation. They produce the marking system that you can see on the Fairtrade products sold in British Supermarkets.
The Fairtrade Marking SystemThis system was first started in the mid-1990s and the certification system now extends to thousands of products. Most of these are food and items such as crafts, jewellery and clothes don’t yet carry a label. Many of these items are from Fairtrade suppliers but the marking system for them has not yet been properly developed. This is likely to come in the future but, in the meantime, to be sure that you are buying a true Fairtrade product, it is important to buy items from a shop that is registered with the British Association for Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS).
Fairtrade Does Mean Eco-friendlyAs well as showing that the product has been priced fairly, so that the producer is making sufficient money to support his or her family, the Fairtrade mark also denotes that it has been produced sustainably. This means that it does not use up large amounts of natural resources that cannot easily be replenished, and that the Carbon Footprint of the production process is as low as possible. Some Fairtrade products are actually produced by small local companies that are themselves carbon neutral.
The producers of Fairtrade goods and the companies who carry out the exporting, importing and distribution of the goods for sale need to keep to strict Fairtrade standards. Fairtrade has inspectors that check regularly that everything is being done properly, and it is only when all these conditions are met that the Fairtrade mark is released for use on that particular product. Suppliers and producers must show that they are not using chemical pesticides or fertilizers and this is checked every few months to ensure their production processes are both ethical and environmentally aware.