Fair Trade. What does it all mean?

Fair Trade. What does it all mean?

By Aliya Segura

Ever have one of those days where you walk into a store, and see an item that you can’t take your eyes off of? You quickly check to see that it is definitely in your price range and notice a small tag that states, “Made in ___.” You pay no attention to the label until you get home when you see a social media thread talking about the negative impact of fast fashion. You realize your favorite item was not made ethically, but what could you do? It’s just a piece of clothing, right? Then, as you turn on the news, the anchor discusses the climate crisis. The anchor states that most items you buy on your grocery run are causing more pollution due to being highly processed. “But all these groceries and clothes are things I need. Plus, they were so cheap!”, you try to justify as the news anchor's words make you feel more guilty. “Well, what am I supposed to do now? How can I shop ethically, sustainably, and affordably?” you think.

In a world where most carbon emissions are generated by 75% of corporations, what is a consumer like you supposed to do? Your love for fashion and your need to thrive by feeding your body right cannot be stopped. Shopping sustainably seems impossible in an echo chamber of doubt, but have you ever considered fair trade? According to the Fair Trade Federation (FTF), fair trade is, “an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system. Fair trade businesses partner with farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized to find markets and customers for their goods.” 

At Tulia’s Artisan Gallery, we are a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation since 2018 as we aim to showcase Colombian artistry with jewelry, baskets, and mobiles handmade by very talented artisans. The makers we collaborate with have entrusted us to abide by the nine fair trade principles described below.

If you aim to shop in a way that can support makers directly while also having less harm to the environment, take a look at some of the fair trade principles to understand what fair trade is truly about!

Cultivate New Market Opportunities 

Initiating trade partnerships with different communities aids in helping the environment while also supporting communities that may be impoverished. People who make cheap clothing items or any processed food within grocery aisles are often not paid fairly for their work. Sometimes workers are exploited or not even paid a salary for their work. Those of us who shop in stores have access to what we want, but is it genuinely fair if it came at the expense of someone's livelihood? Cultivating new market opportunities allows marginalized communities to grow their opportunities within the global market. Tulia’s and other fair trade businesses focus on producers and their communities to have their interests met so they can thrive socially and economically. 

Develop Transparent & Accountable Relationships 

Ever want the shoes your favorite athlete has, to rock in once you hit the gym? Or a new trending makeup palette with outstanding colors, shimmers, and glitters for a low price? As much as those who have influence may convince consumers to buy more, what about the relationships established by the corporations and the workers? Having transparent and accountable relationships is necessary for power to be distributed equally. In fair trade, members must be honest and fair with customers and producers by sharing how their business is run, how relationships are established, and the ability to communicate respectfully. When there are challenges, members must build solutions by being consistent, sincere, and respectful of their producers so everyone involved can thrive. 

Build Capacity 

Building capacity is essential for members involved in fair trade so relationships can last over a long period of time. Relationships between producers and members can grow strong when there is communication, trust, and an exchange of knowledge as time goes on. Members must be respectful of producers by being open and sharing practices they know. Tulia's Artisan Gallery has been in a long-term relationship with all four maker groups, and we've supported their efforts in expanding their workshop spaces.

Promote Fair Trade 

Tulia’s Artisan Gallery is a proud member of the Fair Trade Federation. We must promote fair trade and are responsible for raising awareness about fair trade any time possible so others may learn how to shop more sustainably. We emphasize how important supporting fair trade is by highlighting the stories of the makers and our founder so consumers know how passionate we are about creating a more just world. Customers can assist in the fight for a better world, a more sustainable way to shop, and be a part of that change as we inform you how you can make better choices.

You are making a difference right now as you read. Your consideration is an opportunity for fair trade to flourish!

Pay Promptly and Fairly 

As processed goods may benefit some of us, corporations do not pay their workers fairly. In fair trade, accountability is key as there are frameworks put in place that members must abide by, which include…

  • The true cost of labor
  • Time
  • Materials
  • Skill level
  • Training
  • Sustainable growth

There are also other related factors. This is for the sake of producers being paid accordingly at all times for the work they do. Whether producers are harvesters or makers, members must ensure they are being paid promptly and equally.

Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions 

Members must provide an environment that is free of exploited labor to meet the standards and principles of fair trade. Members must ensure an environment with safe and empowering working conditions for producers to thrive. Members must create an environment where producers are not discriminated against for any part of their identity or status and one free of abuse and harassment. By up-keeping these standards producers and members must entrust one another to a healthy working environment. 

Ensure the Rights of Children 

FTF members must abide by and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that children are not involved in the production of a product that takes away from their security, education, and play. Members must maintain open communication with producers to ensure that if children are involved in the production, it’s only because a skill set of ancestral knowledge is being passed down. At Tulia’s Artisan Gallery, we work with maker groups who hold great importance to both mainstream and ancestral education and they advocate for their own communities to make sure neither is taken for granted.  

Cultivate Environmental Stewardship

We all want to be environmentally conscious, so FTF members must take steps to produce and package a product as sustainably as possible. Members can do this by ensuring their business decisions consider how their work may impact the environment. At Tulia’s Artisan Gallery, we’ve worked hard behind the scenes to reduce plastic packaging, increase the use of sustainable sugarcane paper, reuse packaging that enters our warehouse, and use recycled cardboard for our flying mobile boxes.
Additionally, our customers can make their online orders carbon-neutral by adding the EcoCart option at checkout. All EcoCart funds are sent to a forest management program in Colombia, protecting a vital rainforest that is in a vulnerable part of the planet.
The ability to cultivate environmental stewardship is the responsibility of all inhabitants of this planet.

Respect for Cultural, Racial, and Ethnic Identity

In fair trade, it is vital to celebrate the diversity of the culture, racial and ethnic communities that share their craft, skillset, and ancestral knowledge. Producers can work with members to make sure their needs for their communities are being met and celebrated. The relationships of members and producers blossom a wondrous collaboration to create an environment where cultures are being honored or producers' concerns are addressed.

At Tulia’s Artisan Gallery, we seek out indigenous makers whenever possible to ensure indigenous knowledge and traditions are preserved, valued, and respected. 

Tulia's Artisan Gallery was accepted into the Fair Trade Federation on Aug 1, 2018 as a verified fair trade organization.  This was an arduous process involving a very lengthy application that addresses all nine fair trade principles.  It was like writing a mini-thesis.  At the time, I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat and I was not going to throw away my shot at opening new markets for the makers in Colombia. -Karen Torres

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.