Consumers sure that employees are provided with

Consumers are increasingly becoming
more aware of where their food is coming from, and if it was safely and
ethically produced. It can be difficult to know the quality of your food by
simply looking at the colorful, and creatively marketed, packages on grocery
store shelves, but there are ways to know what products are sourced
responsibly. Fair trade certification groups are non-profit organizations that
aim to encourage ethical practices and create transparency between corporations
and consumers. If all American corporations were required to become fair trade
certified it would benefit the corporation, the workers (in the United States
and internationally), the environment, and the consumers.

            For
a company to be considered fair trade they must meet several strict standards
set by certification organizations. Specific ingredients, small businesses, and
even entire corporations are able become certified, depending on what options
are available at each certification organization. Specific standards between
each organization may vary slightly, but the main goals remain the same.
Providing a fair livable wage and improved working conditions for workers,
using environmentally sustainable practices, and investing in communities are
primary focuses for fair trade groups.

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            Those
employed through a fair trade company receive several benefits which improve
safety, health, wealth, and overall quality of life in fair trade communities.
Unfortunately, it is common for companies that choose to outsource labor to
developing countries to take advantage of workers and pay them well below a
fair wage. Fair trade companies promise to pay workers a fair wage for their
work, and make sure that employees are provided with a livable wage; these
prices vary depending on the country, type of product being sold, and the
current market price for that product. Safer working conditions is another
standard that is heavily enforced. This means workers are provided with the
proper equipment (such as gloves and other protective gear) and are properly
trained in order to reduce the risk of injuries. Child labor is strictly
prohibited, though this is something that remains an issue in many developing
countries. Because of this rule, fair trade companies help give children
opportunities to attend school instead of work and avoid harmful conditions,
despite the lack of child labor laws in their country. Women are strongly
encouraged to become fair trade farmers and own their own land. According to
their website, Fairtrade International claims that over 43% of women make up
the agricultural labor source in developing countries. The organization
continues to fight the gender gap by encouraging gender positivity for women
and educating them on health, in addition to job training and educating them on
sustainable farming practices (Fairtrade International 2017).

In addition, farmers
receive extra money so they can invest in social, economic, and development
projects in their communities. The Community Development fund is given directly
to farmers and they are able to decide how the money is spent, giving them the
ability to invest in the resources their community needs the most. Wholesome
Harvest, a tomato farm in Amado, Arizona, shared how the Community Development
Fund positively impacted their business and allowed them to invest in their
workers and community. Eighty thousand dollars donated by Fair Trade Certified
gave Wholesome Harvest the ability to pay for transportation, health
insurance fees and home insurance for their employees, as well as working to
develop project management skills (Clark 2017).

            Although
it appears that following all the fair trade guidelines would cost businesses
more money and possibly create a loss of profits, becoming certified can
actually increase revenue and consumer support. Since consumers are beginning
to demand products that are more ethical and environmentally friendly,
corporations are feeling increasingly pressured to change their products and
practices to please shoppers. By placing a fair trade certified logo on
products, companies advertise that they are socially responsible; which can
persuade some to choose their product over another (non-fair trade) competitor.
Many people are even willing to pay a higher price to support a company that
they believe is ethical and responsible. A study through Stanford University
found that coffee sales grew nearly ten percent when products contained a fair
trade label, even when prices rose by eight percent (Hainmueller, Hiscox, and
Sequeria 2014). The market is changing, slowly progressing in a direction that
creates honesty and transparency between buyers and companies. Falkenburg and
Brunsael (2011) studied multiple corporations and concluded that, “many
competitors are becoming certified; those which do not have certification are
expected to be at a disadvantage.”

Some skeptical
shoppers may be afraid that purchasing fair trade products does little for the
consumer, and may even cost them more money, but choosing these certified items
can provide you with higher quality products and help make a statement about
what kind of companies  and practices you
choose to support. These companies take great pride in their products and
workers, so as a result high quality products are sold.  For many, the peace of mind that comes along
with knowing you are supporting a company that is improving the lives of other
is worth a slightly higher price. While there may not be any current laws to
make fair trade certification an obligation for companies, there are things
you, as a consumer, can do to support these socially responsible companies and
encourage the market to head in a more ethical direction. Supply and demand
means that most companies will change their products and practices to follow
the market, whatever customers are buying and demanding, to ensure a steady
flow of profit. The choices we make impacts more than ourselves, it extends to
workers all over the world, to the success of corporations, and to the overall
health of our planet.

Something that
benefits nearly everyone, even those that do not purchase these certified
items, are the environmental benefits of Fairtrade products and standards.
Being certified requires following set guidelines that fight climate change and
provide a cleaner environment for farmers and their communities. “Why Fair
Trade Means Protecting the Environment, Too” digs deeper into specific
standards set; such as enhancing soil by applying sustainable irrigation
practices, crop rotation for example, and sourcing water sustainably (Fair
Trade USA 2012). GMOs are prohibited and farmers must handle agrochemicals
safely and minimize their use. While organic certification is not required, fair
trade does offer producers extra training and a higher price incentive for
organic products. Because of this, over half of all producers worldwide hold
organic certificates; creating safer and cleaner communities, free of
pesticides. To add to this responsibility, farmers are expected to develop
sustainable and safe management plans for pests and waste through
farmer education (Fair Trade Certified 2017). Dedication to community
investments allows for environmental education, which leads to advancements in
sustainability, reduction of water and chemical usage, and properly allocated
resources.

While forcing
every company to become fair trade certified would be challenging and would
require a great deal of legal changes, the benefits would ultimately out way
the costs. Even if the United States never enforces these standards, positive
changes can be made by consumer requests for ethical products. Ethical
practices can drastically improve the lives of workers around the world, while
providing benefits to corporations, consumers, and the environment. Even if a
slight price increase is passed on to the consumer, most would willingly pay
the cost for the peace of mind that comes with it. Individuals, communities,
and the earth should not suffer because of large corporations and greed. We can
all do better to encourage and enforce corporate social responsibility; fair trade
certification helps America take a huge step in the right direction. 

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