WHO OWNS FAIR TRADE?
Fairtrade, fair trade, Fair Trade… It’s a movement, a brand, an idea, a certification mark, an alternative trading system. It has come a long way from its very humble beginnings in the late 1980s. It is easy to forget how irrelevant the question seemed among consumers and everyone else, back then, where fruit, coffee, tea, chocolate, clothes, jewlery, rugs, and a gazillion of other items come from. Not only where they come from, but more importantly, how.
And now that Fair Trade has all grown up and become a major animal, it faces the age-old dilemma no successful change movement can run away from: intergrity v. volume. That it achieved amazing successes, not only in reframing the debate and painting a clear link between producers in developing countries and consumers in rich ones, but also in forcing actual changes in dark, never visible supply chains is plain to see. Check your local supermarket, turn around and check out the advertisment lurking somewhere near you. You can probably guess that in this success lies the danger of lost meaning.
If you have a bit of time to spare to hear about all of this goodness – the intricate web of human relationships among farmers, small traders, importers, processors, retailers, consumers and everyone in between, its potential and the devlish challenge it faces – then I recommend you hear this short, insightful talk by one of the movement’s pioneers, Pauline Tiffen, delivered earlier this year at the London School of Economics.
Below the video are a few solid links to more in-depth reading on where Fair Trade has come from, how it works and where it’s heading.