Hitting the Mark: What Fair Trade does Right

Fair trade is a movement, one which digs at the question, “where does my stuff come from?” When you go to the grocery store, or go shopping for new clothes, you’ll notice products are coming from all over the place.

The world is becoming more globalized, and outsourcing has made it is increasingly difficult to know what went into making the products we buy.  If last year’s collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh reminded us of anything, it’s that everyday items are constantly being made under treacherous conditions.

“Where does my stuff come from?”

The fair trade movement aims at ensuring that products are made according to fair and ethical standards. There are many people that support this concept, and have their own interpretation of what they consider “fair.” Fairtrade International (FLO), however, designates the most widely used and recognized fairtrade logo. Overall, this designation certifies that products came from places where producers are getting a fair deal. The logo shows that companies have gone through thorough audits to prove that they provide safe and dignified working conditions, don’t use child or forced labour, and that workers are paid fair prices. It goes further to aim that trade relationships are meant for the long-term, so producers can expect stable prices for their goods and oftentimes receive a premium for certified products.

A great step is changing to a fair trade brand for something that you buy regularly.

I like to call fair trade the “anti-sweatshop” movement. So much of what we buy comes from sweatshops, where people are paid so little for their work. It even affects products you may not think of, like the flower market where workers are regularly exposed to hazardous chemicals. However, the most popular fair trade products are coffee, tea, and cocoa. A great step is changing to a fair trade brand for something that you buy regularly.

Fairtrade Fortnight takes place all over the world, with events held in most major cities. They may take the form of a fashion show, or a movie screening, or a panel discussion. They often take place at community events, on college campuses, or at city halls. If you’re the slightest bit curious about the working conditions around the world, and what people are doing to change them, I encourage you to check one out. You may learn things you never knew, and are guaranteed to meet people who are joining together to work towards a better and more equitable trading future.


Samantha Rudick is a masters student at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and is currently working with the International Trade Centre in Geneva. She has been a volunteer with Fair Trade Toronto for two years.