If you haven’t noticed the Fair Trade certification symbol anywhere around campus, you must being walking around with blinders on. Jazzman’s sells Fair Trade coffee and brownies and uses Fair Trade sugar, as does Cav Corner. The bookstore sells Fair Trade chocolate and we have Fair Trade meetings and forums with other schools in the area several times a semester.
But what does this mean? What is Fair Trade and sweatshop free and why is it so special that our school provides these for us?
It’s actually a huge deal that our school has these at our fingertips. Products having the Fair Trade Certification symbol on their packaging means that they were produced, packaged and sold fairly. It means the workers received fair and stable wages, they weren’t worked to the bone and products were made without harmful agrochemicals and GMOs (genetically modified organisms.)
“Fair Trade is about making sure people get their fair share of the pie,” Ben & Jerry’s Co-Founder, Jerry Greenfield said on the Ben & Jerry’s webpage. “The whole concept goes to the heart of our values and the sense of right and wrong. Nobody wants to buy something that was made by exploiting somebody else.”
Ben & Jerry’s is a huge advocate for Fair Trade. Of their 50+ Fair Trade flavors, each flavor is anywhere between 24% and 97% is traded in compliance with Fair Trade standards. Which means they use as many Fair Trade ingredients as possible without distorting the flavoring. Everything from the chocolate, coffee and sugar in the ice cream bases to the coffee and banana chunks and swirls added into the mix.
There are emerging companies like Ten Thousand Villages that sell 100% Fair Trade gifts, crafts and products. There are also companies that aren’t Fair Trade certified entirely, but are sweatshop free like Alta Gracia.
Alta Gracia’s mission is best captured in the phrase “salario digno.” The English translation is “living wage” but the literal translation for this Spanish phrase is “a wage with dignity.” Their workers are paid a living wage, are represented by a union and are treated fairly in their workplace. And to prove this, every product of theirs carries a WRC tag (Workers Rights Consortium.)
This is impressive but I’m sure some people aren’t convinced it’s worth it. It is a little more expensive to buy Fair Trade and it isn’t as easy to find the products, especially when big brand names bombard store shelves.
Yes, it is a commitment to buy Fair Trade and sweatshop free products. But with so much at our disposal, why not become educated on Fair Trade now and take advantage of it while you don’t have to go far to find it.
Next time you’re at Jazzman’s take notice of the Fair Trade signs up. Or when you’re looking at apparel in the bookstore, check and see if the tag says Alta Gracia. Little actions add up to be big things. With more people becoming aware, maybe our school will be a Fair Trade University before you know it.