The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.


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History of Fair Trade

Like many of you, my relationship with fair trade began with coffee. Since then, I’ve gone from buying fair trade whenever possible to starting my own fair trade business, Noah’s Gifts and Gallery. Despite my long relationship with and support for fair trade I didn’t know much about its history. I took the time recently to visit The World Fair Trade Organization’s website where their short history of Fair Trade section, outlines the beginnings of fair trade and how it became the widespread movement it is today.

Where did it all begin?

…It all started in the United States, where Ten Thousand Villages (formerly Self Help Crafts) began buying needlework from Puerto Rico in 1946, and SERRV began to trade with poor communities in the South in the late 1940s. The first formal “Fair Trade” shop which sold these and other items opened in 1958 in the USA.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and socially motivated individuals in many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America perceived the need for fair marketing organisations, which would provide advice, assistance and support to disadvantaged producers. Many such Southern Fair Trade Organisations were established, and links were made with the new organisations in the North. These relationships were based on partnership, dialogue, transparency and respect. The goal was greater equity in international trade.

Parallel to this citizens’ movement, the developing countries were addressing international political fora such as the second UNCTAD conference (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) in Delhi in 1968, to communicate the message “Trade not Aid.” This approach put the emphasis on the establishment of equitable trade relations with the South, instead of seeing the North appropriate all the benefits and only returning a small part of these benefits in the form of development aid.


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Fair Trade and Climate Justice

Please take a moment to join the Fairtrade fight against the climate crisis. Add your name to the petition at The Fairtrade Foundation and spread the word to your family, friends and associates.

Fairtrade is more than a Mark on a product. It’s a call for change.

With the next UN Climate Summit taking place in Glasgow in November 2020, it’s critical we all make sure producers’ voices are heard in the UK and beyond. That is why the Fairtrade Foundation is part of the Climate Coalition, a group of over 130 organisations across the UK, working towards a truly green and sustainable world.


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Conscious Capitalism

In an interview with GreenBiz, Fair Trade USA CEO Paul Rice notes

What smart capitalists are realizing, conscious capitalists are realizing, is not only can you be both sustainable and profitable, but in the future, you’re going to have to be both.

In fact, U.S. Retail sales of certified by nonprofit Fair Trade USA topped $6 billion in 2016 with well-known brands such as Starbucks, PepsiCo, Target, Costco, Walmart, Patagonia, West Elm and Gap Inc. among its 1,300 corporate supporters.

,,,the organization generated an additional $500 million in income over the past two decades for more than a million farmers and factory workers touched by its programs in more than 45 countries worldwide.


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Fair Trade – A Growing Movement

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published some interesting statistics pertaining to the fair trade global movement.

The fair trade movement comprises over 2.5 million producers and workers from 70 countries, over 500 specialized importers, 4,000 world shops and more than 100,000 volunteers – figures that are growing, according to Mr. Corbalán.

Global sales of fair trade certified goods climbed 15% in 2018 to reach €9.8 billion ($10.9 billion), according to Fairtrade International’s annual report 2018-2019. The profits put an additional €177 million ($196 million) in the pockets of 1.7 million farmers and workers.

Mr. Corbalán cited work done with governments to ensure equitable distribution of benefits in value chains in countries such as Kenya, where efforts to promote living wages for flower workers are bearing fruit.

The fair trade movement has also helped improve incomes of cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana, the working conditions of Haitian migrant workers in banana plantations in the Dominican Republic and tackled child labour in the sugar sector in Belize.

 


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Wholesum Fair Trade

New-Wholesum-logo-web

Wholesum Farms  came up in my news feed again today.  I was thrilled to read they are expanding their fair trade offerings. A portion of the proceeds from these products, as well as others in their Fair Trade line will be funneled into Wholesum’s community development fund.  This is a great example of how an agricultural firm can take the needs of their workers into account when setting corporate policy.

In a recent news release, Ricardo Crisantes, chief commercial officer, touted the company’s Fair Trade program.

“What makes this (Fair Trade) certification so remarkable is the fact that 100% of community development funds generated from the sale of Fair Trade produce go back to our workers and helps them tackle needs such as healthcare, housing and education,” Ricardo Crisantes, Wholesum’s chief commercial officer, said in the release. “The workers vote on how these funds are allocated, and that in itself is very empowering.”

Wholesum produce can be found at Whole Foods Market and Jewel Grocers in the Midwest.  They may not be carried under the Wholesum label, but be sure to look for the Fair Trade Guarantee!

 


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Support better conditions for farm workers with fair trade

Our current industrial farm culture not only degrades the environment, the soil and the water, but subjects workers to an array of hazards such as respiratory infections, sprains, bruises, severe head trauma, fractures, electrocution and repetitive motion injury.

Paul Rice, Founder and CEO of Fair Trade USA emphasizes the need for Fair Trade Certification in the agricultural sector internationally – even in a “developed” country like the US…

A 2014 Los Angeles Times investigation found Mexican farm workers living in squalor, denied wages, and trapped in debt on farms that export produce to the U.S., highlighting the need for standardization and enforcement of labor standards. Unfortunately, U.S. farms could not provide a much better example of decent work in practice. In the U.S., just as in other parts of the world, workers face abysmally low wages, unsafe and toxic working conditions, child labor, indentured servitude, and human trafficking. They are also regularly unable to gain access to medical care and education.

He acknowledges that while the US has stronger labor laws than many other countries, they still don’t meet Fair Trade Certified standards…

Agricultural workers deserve the same fair income, secure workplaces and social protections provided to other industrial workers under state and federal laws.

Adhering to Fair Trade standards comes with added benefit to farm workers in the form of Fair Trade Committees and Community Development Funds. It’s simple: for every Fair Trade Certified product sold, the farmers who grew it earn an additional amount of money called Community Development Funds. From there, a democratically-elected group of farm workers, called the Fair Trade Committee, assembles to decide how to spend these dollars to meet their unique social, economic, and environmental needs.

In 2016, Wholesum Harvest, a family-owned tomato farm in Nogales, Arizona, made headlines when it announced its status as the very first Fair Trade Certified™ farm in the United States.

Within a year of becoming Fair Trade Certified, workers at Wholesum Harvest made their very first project investing in health insurance for the farmworkers. Even with employer-provided insurance available to all the workers, many still could not afford it, so workers voted to use their funds to offset the employee cost. In January 2018, Wholesum Harvest went from less than 5 percent to now 88 percent of its workers opting in to the employee-provided health insurance. (Compare that to just 35 percent of farm workers in the U.S. who report having health insurance.)

 

 

 


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Women’s Day Special

The World Fair Trade Organization is celebrating Women’s History Month with a series of podcasts featuring Fair Trade Enterprises started and run by women.

Allison Havens founded Yabal Handicrafts in Guatemala to keep alive indigenous weaving techniques and create livelihoods for local women. Today, the women producers are becoming the main income earners in their family and challenging gender norms. Her story unpacks what it means to truly prioritize local producers over increasing profits – getting to the heart of what makes an enterprise mission-led.

 

Bethlehem founded Entoto Beth in Ethiopia as a social enterprise. Today, her enterprise gives opportunities for 200 women in marginalized communities. She upcycles bullet-casings and has adopted Fair Trade to create jewelry and bags for global markets.