The expanding world trade engineered by large corporations has generated much wealth. Big business has benefited greatly, along with their home countries and their consumers. But the globalization of trade does not always significantly improve the lives of workers in developing countries. Desperately needing income they often work excessively in difficult and unhealthy conditions at very low pay.
And so the rich-poor gap continues to widen as corporate machines, with supportive governments, keep the momentum to improve their economies.
This world's unbalanced distribution of wealth and poverty sorely needs fixing. There are some things we can do as individuals like donating to charities. This is too often put off until later or perhaps forgotten.
Another way we can help those in the developing countries is by getting involved.
Discussions on the social ills associated with commerce and consumption and the hopes and expectations for a more equitable world would include the topic of Fair Trade.
What Is Fair Trade?
The New American Dream: "Fair Trade is an international trade model that aims to build just, equitable and sustainable business practices by linking producers in developing countries directly to purchasers in the global north. Fair Trade purchasers work directly with cooperatives and other small scale producers, eliminating the middlemen present in conventional trading and ensuring that producers receive a higher percentage of the price.
The Fair Trade movement was developed as a means of holistically addressing inequities in conventional development and trade models. In addition to setting a minimum floor price for commodities, which aims to cover the cost of production and cost of living in a local context, Fair Trade aids producers by requiring fair labor conditions, safe environmental practices, and fostering community development. The Fair Trade principles, to which all producers, importers, and exporters must adhere to receive certification, include:
Fair Prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price, plus a premium for certified organic products. Artisans and producers of non-commodity items are guaranteed a living wage in the local context.
Fair Working Conditions: Laborers are guaranteed safe and healthy working conditions, a living wage, freedom of association, and opportunities for advancement. In particular, women’s leadership and participation in cooperatives is encouraged. Human rights and child labor laws are enforced and upheld to the most stringent standards.
Direct Trade: Fair Trade importers purchase directly from farmer and artisan cooperatives, thereby building long-term relationships and sustainable business practices.
Transparency: All Fair Trade businesses are open to public accountability and must maintain records of their environmental and business practices.
Democratic Organizations: Fair Trade supports cooperative systems in which each producer is a stakeholder in the business, participates democratically in decision-making, and benefits equally from generated revenue.
Community Development: A “social premium,” a set sum given to the cooperative for each Fair Trade item sold, is invested in a business or organization in the local community democratically selected by the cooperative.
Environmental Sustainability: GMOs and certain agrochemicals are strictly prohibited, and organic practices are encouraged and rewarded. Fair Trade producers are also required to adhere to practices that maximize use of raw, sustainable materials, and promote water and soil conservation, reforestation, species diversity, and environmental education."
There's much more to read about Fair Trade practices and products with related resources for the Conscious Consumer Marketplace at The New American Dream.