Will You Make Change This Holiday Season With Fair-Trade Retailers?


by Carmen K. Iezzi 

This is a guest-post by Carmen K. Iezzi, Executive Director at Fair Trade Federation.

Right now, in your community and in cities and towns across North America, shops are clamoring for your attention. Particularly as the holiday shopping season draws nearer, they will do and say and promise all that they can to get it.

Some offer nameless, faceless goods whose impacts on you, their producers, and the planet are hardly discussed. Others, Fair Trade Retailers, tell the stories behind the products we enjoy and work to maximize the return to your community and communities around the globe.

Amid all of the marketing, spin, and hype, consumers from San Francisco, CA to New London, CT have the opportunity to choose what kind of change they get at the register. What will we do with all that power?

What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is a business model based on dialog, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.

These partnerships can distribute power, risks, and rewards more equitably. Fair Trade Organizations seek to change the lives of the poorest in our world by helping to alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, and create opportunities for people to help themselves.

How do I know if a store is fully committed to Fair Trade?
The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to Fair Trade.

In order to join, FTF rigorously evaluates an organization’s work under nine Principles:

Members have to demonstrate in detail how they strive to source all of their products under these criteria.
Consumers will know if their local store is an FTF member if they see the Federation’s logo on their storefront, website, brochure, and other materials. All Federation members are also listed online at www.FairTradeFederation.org/members, so you can find a retailer near you or on-line.

Why should I bother?
Simply put, choosing Fair Trade at an independent store benefits you, the people who receive your gifts, your local community, and communities around the globe – it’s a way to quadruple the impact of the choices you make!

Green America reports that “a 2003 impact study … by Civic Economics found that, for every $100 spent at a chain store, $13 remained in the community, whereas $45 remained when that $100 was spent at local businesses.” Moreover, FTF member Partners for Just Trade estimates that, on average, 21 cents of every retail dollar spent on Fair Trade goes to artisan groups, whereas the same Peruvian artisans selling through the conventional channels receive only 1-5 cents of that retail dollar.

These statistics combine to show how purchases from your local Fair Trade retailer support investment in your community AND have a tremendous impact on marginalized producers around the world.

What Do I Do Now?
High quality gifts, fun toys, stylish jewelry, delicious coffees and chocolates, fashionable clothing, and other items are available from Fair Trade Organizations to delight whoever is on your list. Most fair trade products are also competitively priced in relation to their conventional counterparts and, sometimes, you can even save money by choosing Fair Trade.

Consumer preferences shape communities, particularly during the holidays when 40% of retail sales take place. As the biggest shopping days of the year approach, seek out your local fully committed Fair Trade Retailer.

Don’t see one in your area? Shop on-line, host a community Fair Trade sale, convert local shops, or start your own business!

No matter what holidays you celebrate this fall, what kind of change will ask for? What kind will you make? Choose great products that create tremendous positive change around the world at your local Fair Trade store.

Photo credit: BashaSide7

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