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Feeding the Future

Fair Trade: What You Purchase Matters

Photo: Courtesy of Pablo Merchán Montes

Sometimes you have a craving for chocolate or a good cup of coffee which makes you run to your local store. You look at the plethora of choices. You reach for your favorite brand of coffee or chocolate bar, never stopping to think about where the coffee or cocoa beans came from. Under what conditions were they grown? Who grew them? Was it slave labor? Children? Did the farming practices have a negative impact on the environment? Does the farmer live in poverty? The reality is the answer to those questions could be “yes.” However, if you are buying your coffee and chocolate with a Fair Trade certification label, you are supporting human and environmental sustainability in a very simple yet real way.

Supply chain​​​​​​​

Fair Trade USA, the only accredited Fair Trade certifier in the country, defines fair trade as a global movement to alleviate poverty in ways that are socially and environmentally sustainable. Fair Trade USA certifies products, not companies. By certifying the supply chain, this insures from the farm level all the way to the table that the growers are paid fair prices and receiving community development funds for social services that are deemed most necessary in their communities and insuring environmental standards. A Fair Trade certified product supply chain must be audited regularly to make sure they are adhering to the environmental standards and practices set by Fair Trade USA. This ensures that the farmer received a fair price and the community development funds are being used appropriately.

Fair trade and organics

Although not all Fair Trade products are labeled organic, many producers are investing their Fair Trade premium funds into organic certification. Nearly fifty percent of all Fair Trade certified products are also certified organic. Environmental standards are therefore integral to the Fair Trade criteria. These include:

  • Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
  • Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
  • Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
  • Banning the use of genetically modifi ed organisms (GMOs)
  • Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy.

Beyond organic

The Fair Trade certified label allows consumers to look beyond the product and have confi dence that their purchase matters. The label exemplifies that standards are set in place, allowing the educated consumer to live their values. Zak Zaidman of Kopali, a company that sells Fair Trade and Organic certified chocolate and fruit treats, says, “If you’re going to treat yourself to something delicious, it should not only be good for you, but good for the farmers and good for the Earth.”

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