What is Fair Trade? | Why Fair Trade?
Fair Trade is at the core of our business. It’s what we do and who we are, the mission of our company and the guiding force behind all of our business decisions. For us it’s more than just a phrase or a label--it’s a lifestyle.
What does Fair Trade mean? Is it paying workers more or making sure that farmers and factory workers are getting treated well? Is it like direct trade or is it something more? And does it only apply to chocolate or coffee or organic tote bags too?
As the certification becomes more popular, there are more and more consumers who are aware of the concept, but tend to only have a surface understanding of the concept as a whole.
As a Fair Trade private label company set on producing the finest Fair Trade cotton bags, apparel,and accessories, we want to make sure our customers share our values, and to do that, they need to know what we believe in.
Fair trade, as defined by the World Fair Trade Organization:
Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers. Fair Trade organizations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.
To sum it up in a few sentences, Fair Trade is a global movement of consumers, producers, businesses and certifiers that consider people and planet first. They all work together to make sure that they are focusing on treating resources as limited and creating products in a way that benefits the producers who make them and the land that grows them.
History of Fair Trade
Fair Trade developed out of a response to the negative results of unfair trade practices and the widening divide between the global north and south. Since its inception, the Fair Trade movement has been growing at an exponential rate as more consumers realize that while many benefit from open markets, subsidized commodity items and products that are mass produced, many farmers, artisans and children are losing their livelihoods, freedoms and in the worst cases, human rights.
During the last ten years there has been a 66% growth in Fair Trade sales, and in 2016 Fair Trade sales totaled over 7.88 million Euros!
What are the requirements?
To be Fair Trade certified, a product must be produced by a farmer, cooperative, or workers that meets certain standards set by the Fair Trade labelling body. Currently there are over 11 certifiers internationally, each with their own standards. These standards vary slightly, but basically require that:
Workers receive a Fair Trade minimum wage
Environmental sustainability is upheld
Safe working conditions are provided
There is no forced or child labor
Premiums are given to producers based on the product they create
These premiums go to a communal fund to be used for development projects
The supply chain is transparent to consumers
By buying Fair Trade bags from Gallant International Inc., you support and promote the above mentioned Fair Trade standards. Our Fair Trade organic cotton Bags are GOTS certified and 100% customizable.
What does Fair Trade mean to Gallant International?
At Gallant International, we focus on three things:
The reason we are able to stick to our mission is because we are Fair Trade and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified. By working with certifiers, we can promise our customers that we are doing exactly what we say we are, and we don’t greenwash to make an extra dollar. We specialize in fair trade bags and accessories such as custom canvas tote bags, custom drawstring bags. Gallant promotes fair trade custom printed tote bags that are made of GOTS certified organic cotton .
But what exactly is Fair Trade, and why do we believe in it so much? It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot and can be controversial at times, with many critics saying that it doesn’t actually benefit workers. Because the Fair Trade economic model is at the heart of our mission as a social enterprise, we wanted to give you a history of the movement, why we chose to become Fair Trade certified, and how Fair Trade actually does make a difference in the lives of millions of cotton farmers in India.
What is Fair Trade?
Fair trade is the solution that makes a big difference in the people who grow and make things we love. Fair trade organizations help set standards to alleviate the poverty and exploitation of farmers and workers by providing better wages and reforming work conditions.
Today, Fair Trade is a global movement that impacts over 1 million small-scale producers and workers in 3,000+ grassroots organizations in 70 countries. Fair Trade products are sold in thousands of retail stores, supermarkets and sales outlets in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America, and feature over 10,000 different products!
Fair Trade companies and advocates work with international brands to create and sell Fair Trade certified products while also working with international policy makers and governments to improve working conditions for workers on a global level. On top of that, Fair Trade has made mainstream business more aware of their social and environmental responsibility.
To become Fair Trade certified, we have committed to paying our workers a Fair Trade minimum price that is above market wages, allowing our workers to form a labor union to ensure that they can work together and express their needs to us as a group, and paying our workers a premium on top of the Fair Trade wages that goes to a savings account that they then elect to use however they choose.
Why Fair Trade?
Today’s global fashion industry employs over 60 million people - most of which work in unsafe factory and environmental conditions while receiving extremely poor wages. Globally, annual revenues from the industry are measured in the trillions of dollars and many household-name retailers admit that they don’t know exactly how the cotton they use is farmed and processed.
To make things worse, the fashion industry is the world's second most extractive and polluting industry, second only to the oil industry. In parts of China and India, farmers can predict the color of the next fashion season by the color of their rivers due to run-off from the textile industry. And last year, the number of cotton child workers in India was half a million.
When we stopped for a moment to think about this data and when we traveled through those countries and saw those workers with our own eyes, we knew why Gallant had to be a Fair Trade and Organic enterprise. For us, it is the only way to do business in a way that can combat fast fashion and global giants who don’t know who they are impacting with their businesses or what the true cost is of the cheap goods they flood the market with. Our products such as muslin drawstring bags are biodegradable, reusable, sustainable and free of harmful chemicals. The process we use does not harm the ecosystem and its people, and we know we are doing good in the world while creating something meaningful, responsible and authentic. Our cotton muslin drawstring bags are perfect choice for packaging instead of paper or plastic.
For us, the choice was simple. We hope for you that it will be too.
History of Fair Trade
Fair trade as a movement began in the late 1940s when an American businesswoman began a women’s sewing group in Puerto Rico run by the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). To generate income for their local community, the MCC began selling their crafts to friends and neighbours in the United States under the name Self Help Crafts. At around the same time in 1946, according to the World Fair Trade Organization, a nonprofit organization called SERRV (Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocations) was established in the United States by the Church of the Brethren to form trade relationships with poor communities in South America. The first formal fair trade shop in the United States, where goods from SERRV and other like minded organizations were sold, was established in 1958. Sales eventually expanded beginning in 1962 to communities in Europe. After 34 years of successful trade, the project was renamed Ten Thousand Villages.
Britannica.com cites, ‘Europe joined the movement during the late 1950s, when the Quaker-led Oxford Committee for Famine Relief—now Oxfam International—began selling arts and crafts made by Chinese refugees in its shops in the United Kingdom. In 1964 the organization introduced handicrafts and Christmas cards made in other developing countries’ and officially created the first Fair Trade Organisation.
In 1968, a new political agenda of ‘Trade not aid’ led by many developing countries was promoted during the second session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in New Delhi, according to a paper issued by the United Nations. This agenda advocated for the establishment of equitable trade relationships between developed and developing countries with the emphasis of leadership of these relationships in the global south. This radical demand for a power shift challenged the status quo of Northern countries appropriating all the benefits of the trade relationships and only returning a small part of these benefits in the form of development aid.
Although the agenda adopted in the UNCTAD was never fully implemented at the national level, its message contributed to the spread of fair trade practices around the world, thanks in large part to citizen-led initiatives.
An example of such initiatives took place in the Netherlands in 1968 regarding cane sugar with the message, “by buying cane sugar you give people in poor countries a place in the sun of prosperity.” (FAO papers, http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/Y5136E/ y5136e06.htm). Centering around on worker groups from South America and the Caribbean, this initiative lead to the first World Shop opening in the Dutch town of Breukelen. Fair Trade Original, as it was called, featured handmade wood and sugar products and later included coffee from Guatemala, tea, cocoa, sugar, wine, nuts, and spices. By 1973, a there was a significant increase in the number of World Shops, or Fair Trade shops, around the world.
According to wfto.com, ‘World Shops, or Fair Trade shops as they are called in other parts in the world, have played (and still play) a crucial role in the Fair Trade movement. They constitute not only points of sales but are also very active in campaigning and awareness-raising.’
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 organizations, which would provide advice, assistance and support to disadvantaged producers. According to britannica.com, ‘this encouraged the establishment of numerous fair trade Organisations in the global south, which made links with the new fair trade organisations in the United States and Europe. These relationships were, and continue to be, based on partnership, dialogue, transparency and respect. The goal was greater equity in international trade.’
The growth of fair trade (or alternative trade as it was called in the early days) from the late 60s onwards has been associated primarily with development trade. It grew as a response to poverty and sometimes disaster in the South and focused on the marketing of craft products. The Max Havelaar label, according to maxhavelar.nl,was created in the Netherlands in 1988 and was named after a fictitious character who battled government corruption and the exploitation of local coffee farmers by Dutch colonialists in 19th-century Java. Similar organizations followed in other European countries and in North America, leading to the establishment of the worldwide Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) association in 1997.
These organizations, working with their counterparts in countries in the global south, assisted in establishing southern fair trade Organizations that helped organize producers and their production, provided social services to producers, and exported commodity and handcraft goods to the European and American organizations under fair trade labels. The decision to create a label for fair trade products was instrumental in raising consumer awareness and spreading the movement to a global level, much as it still is to this day. Fair trade labelling also allowed these products to be sold alongside conventional counterparts in large supermarket chains, expanding access for consumers to purchase fair trade from beyond small fair trade shops to mass consumer markets.
In 1987, after almost 2 decades of networking, conferences and working together (as reported on britannica.com), the European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) was formally established in a joint venture by 11 of the largest fair trade importing organizations from nine European countries. The International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT; later renamed World Fair Trade Organization) followed 2 years later, uniting 38 fair trade organizations under one roof in the Netherlands. The fabulous thing about WFTO is that a large number of stakeholders in the fair trade value chain are represented, from suppliers upstream to third party financial organizations that help support microfinance and loans to producers, to certification organizations.
In 1998 the FLO (Fairtrade International), IFAT, NEWS (Network of European World Shops), and EFTA established an informal working group called FINE (an acronym of the names of the member organizations). According to fairtrade-advocacy.org, FINE was dedicated to increasing worldwide awareness of the fair trade movement through active campaigning in political circles and organizing public events. FINE also empowered their members to collaborate on activities crucial to their mission, such as advocacy, campaigning, international standards and monitoring of Fair Trade.
Since the late 90s, more global networks have been established. Regional networks include the Asia Fair Trade Forum (now WFTO ASIA), Co-operation for Fair Trade in Africa (now WFTO Africa and Middle East), the Association Latino Americana de Comercio Justo (now WFTO Latin America) and IFAT Europe (now WFTO Europe). National networks also grew like Ecota Fair Trade Forum in Bangladesh, Fair Trade Group Nepal, Associated Partners for Fairer Trade Philippines, Fair Trade Forum India, Kenya Federation for Alternative Trade (KEFAT), etc. Additionally, there are numerous labelling groups in the United States, such as Fair Trade USA (formerly Transfair), Fair Trade America, the Fair Trade Federation and brands like Equal Exchange.
During its history of over 60 years, as World Fair Trade Organization reports, ‘Fair Trade has developed into a widespread movement. Thanks to the efforts of Fair Trade Organisations worldwide, Fair Trade has gained recognition among politicians and mainstream businesses. More successes are to be expected, as Fair Trade Organisations develop into stronger players and mainstream companies become more and more attuned to the demand for Fair Trade in the marketplace.’
Follow us at Gallant International, Terra Thread and Soul Space as we continue to shape Fair Trade history along with many other valuable players in the movement.
Fair Trade: What do all these labels mean?
Fair Trade as a labeling movement has achieved enormous accolades in recent years. Global sales of Fair Trade certified products have reached over 8 billion Euros (according to statista.com) and there are currently over 10,000 Fair trade certified products available on the market in over 70 countries. To respond to these immense sales volumes, many non-profit certifying organizations have sprouted up around the world to ensure that the standards of Fair Trade, the heart of the movement, are all being upheld and closely monitored. This ensures that producers and artisans are receiving fair wages and increased economic livelihoods.
With so many different players in the Fair Trade market comes different approaches to producer welfare and direct trade relationships, as well as diverse criteria and definitions of what ‘fair’ actually means in the local context. As each upstream relationship with raw materials is unique and complex, different needs emerge that need to be supported by different sized certifiers with different foci and visions of inclusive trading relationships.
With that in mind, we at Gallant wanted to explain succinctly the difference between each of the 4 predominant certifying organizations, what their approach to Fair Trade is and how that shifts their definition of what criteria meet the standards of a Fair Trade label. Throughout this conversation, our hope is that you have a clearer understanding of what Fair Trade is and why it is such an impactful method of conducting business.
Fair Trade USA - https://www.fairtradecertified.org/
One of the largest certifiers in the world, Fair Trade USA is an independent, nonprofit organization that sets standards, certifies, and labels products that promote sustainable livelihoods for farmers and workers.They operate using both a for-profit and nonprofit business model working with large scale farms, fisheries and factories worldwide. On average, 75% of Fair Trade USA’s revenue is derived from income earned from over 1,1000 business partners that pay to use the Fair Trade Certified™ label. Fair Trade USA works with these brands to ensure that the products they offer comply with the rigorous Fair Trade standards, which helps consumers to purchase their way to a better world, simply by looking for the label on the products they buy.
The remaining 25% of the revenue is contributed from individuals, foundations, and corporations who partner with Fair Trade USA to invest in innovation, growth and impact. Their mission is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.
Fair Trade USA started as a certifier in the 1980’s working with Central American coffee cooperatives and have expanded their model to include much larger farms so they can create impact on a larger level. They are currently shifting their focus to include farms located in the United States so they can improve the livelihoods of migrant farmers and their families. Our custom printed tote bags are Fair Trade factory Certified.
Their definition of Fair Trade:
Fair Trade is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, shoppers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first. A choice for Fair Trade Certified™ goods is a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.
Fair Trade standards according to Fair Trade USA include:
Access to basic services like clean water education and health care
Fundamental human rights
The right to safe working condition
Sustainable production and farming practices
Improved working conditions
Better prices and wages for farmers and workers
Transparent trade practices
Fairtrade prohibits child labor, forced labor, GMOs, and encourages environmentally-friendly production such as organic cotton reusable produce bags.
Additionally, Fair Trade USA includes collective bargaining and Fair Trade social premiums in addition to Fair wages in their model, which set this organization apart from many other certifiers. Fair Trade premiums are amounts in addition to wages that go to a social fund that the producer community must then determine how to allocate.
Fairtrade America - http://www.fairtradeamerica.org/
Fairtrade America is an independent non-profit organization associated with the international Fairtrade system.They work directly with companies, consumers and campaigners to secure a better deal for farmers and workers by representing the global FairTrade movement in America. Fairtrade is the world's largest and most recognized fair trade system, and consists of three producer networks, Fairtrade International, 32 Fairtrade organizations, and FLOCERT, the independent certification body for Fairtrade.
(Fairtrade is not trademarked by Fairtrade America and is such identified as a separate brand from Fair Trade USA, who do not use FLOCERT to certify their products.)
Their definition of Fairtrade:
Based on transparency, respect and dialogue, Fairtrade is a trading partnership that works to make international trade fairer. Fairtrade secures the rights of and offers better trading conditions to marginalized farmers and works in the Global South, thus contributing to sustainable development.
Fairtrade America’s 4 key areas of activity include:
· Providing independent certification of the product supply chain through FLOCERT. Fairtrade America does not certify any products themselves, instead they license the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark, which appears on a product as assurance for consumers that the product meets the internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards.
· Helping grow demand for Fairtrade products and empowering producers to sell their goods in the United States.
· Working with businesses and nonprofit organizations to support producer organizations and their networks.
· Raising awareness of the needs of small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries and supporting efforts to make trade fair.
The Fairtrade International standards:
Governance is important. In Fairtrade, farmers and workers have 50% of the vote in the General Assembly, four seats on the board of Fairtrade International, and representation on the Standards Committee that approves changes to the standards, minimum prices and premiums.
The Fairtrade Minimum Price applies to most Fairtrade products, and acts as a safety net for farmers and workers when prices fall below a sustainable level. The minimum price aims to cover the costs of sustainable production and is established by Fairtrade International through an intensive consultation process with producers, traders and other stakeholders.
On top of the purchase price for the raw product, producer organizations receive a Fairtrade Premium for sales on Fairtrade terms. This amount is paid directly to the producer organization whose members decide how to best invest it to improve their community, business or local environment. For farmers, the Fairtrade Premium can mean improving their business or productivity, helping them transition to organic production, supporting local schools or improving healthcare. Workers will often invest in better housing for community members, access to education and much more. We believe that farmers and workers know best what their communities need, which is why Fairtrade gives farmers and workers the ability to invest the premium as they see fit.
Fair Trade Federation - http://www.fairtradefederation.org/
The Fair Trade Federation is an association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations who are fully committed to fair trade as a membership organization of businesses who practice 360° fair trade. These members are companies that have made a full commitment to fair trading practices – each and every business decision is made with the well-being of artisans and farmers in mind. This commitment runs deep and represents a high bar of fair trade. By using standards set by FLO and the World Fair Trade Organization, the Federation ensures that its members are upholding fair trading practices through their verification process.
The Fair Trade Federation traces its roots to the late 1970s when individual alternative trade organizations began holding yearly conferences for groups working in fair trade. In 1994, the group incorporated formally as the North American Alternative Trade Organization (NAATO); and, the following year, changed its name to the Fair Trade Federation. Since then, FTF has focused on supporting fully committed businesses in order to expand markets for artisans and farmers around the world. The Federation has been an active member of the World Fair Trade Organization (formerly IFAT) for many years. We at Gallant offer Fair Trade cotton reusable produce bags and mesh produce bags.
Their definition of Fair Trade:
Fair Trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system. Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.
Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships
Promote Fair Trade
Pay Promptly and Fairly
Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions
Ensure the Rights of Children
Cultivate Environmental Stewardship
Respect Cultural Identity
World Fair Trade Organization - https://wfto.com
The World Fair Trade Organization is a membership organisation of over 400 Fair Trade enterprises and the organisations that support them. As a global network, the Organization is supported by five regional branches in Africa & the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America & the Pacific Rim, through their respective offices. The office in Culemborg, the Netherlands, coordinates the activities of WFTO worldwide. WFTO also works closely with several country networks that support Fair Trade.
Several of their key activities include:
Setting the Fair Trade standards
Voice and Advocacy efforts
Creating a Global network of Fair Trade organizations
Their definition of Fairtrade:
"Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
Fair Trade organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade." They can be recognised by the WFTO logo.
Principle One: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
Principle Two: Transparency and Accountability
Principle Three: Fair Trading Practices and cultural identity
Principle Four: Fair Payment, Fair Prices, Fair Wages
Principle Five: Ensuring no Child Labour and Forced Labour
Principle Six: Commitment to Nondiscrimination, Gender Equity and Women’s Economic Empowerment, and Freedom of Association
Principle Seven: Ensuring Good Working Conditions
Principle Eight: Providing Capacity Building
Principle Nine: Promoting Fair Trade
Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment
We hope that this helps give you a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the Fair Trade ecosystem. Please contact us with any questions you have about how these organizations interact with each other or if you have specific questions about Fair Trade in your country! Also please contact us for private label of fair trade certified produce bags.
Why Fair Trade: Supply Chain breakdown
By now you have heard the stories and read articles about the benefits of Fair Trade, how important it is to farmer welfare and the key motivators propelling conscious capitalism. What isn’t always clear to consumers however, for reasons that can include lack of information, access to reliable sources or data that truly demonstrates the reality on the ground, is how commodity supply chains work and why they are so detrimental to farmer welfare.
A commodity is a raw material or agricultural product that can be bought and sold and whose price is very often determined on the New York Stock Exchange by traders thousands of miles away from were they are grown. Popular commodity items include coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, bananas and cotton, amongst many other items. These agricultural products are typically grown by farmers for a very low price and sold to a network of players along the pipeline before they get to you.
The need for Fair Trade comes in along 2 different spots in the supply chain: at the market level prices farmers receive for their goods, and after the goods leave the farmers to get to consumers, providing traceability and fair pay. This is made more clear when you examine a typical coffee, shea butter or cotton supply chain, outlined below.
Typical Coffee Supply Chain
The 11 stopping points along the supply chain from farmer to consumer provide ample room for deception, price collusion, and advantageous purchasing from a farmer who typically receives $1.21 per pound conventional to $1.90+ for Fair Trade certified coffee.
By inserting more traceability in supply chains, in combination with above market wages and premiums that go back to the farmers, Fair Trade allows more of the money you as a consumer pay for your product to go back to the person who spent the time, effort and resources to grow it, versus the various middle men who are reaping the majority of the profits in conventional supply chains.
This supply chain system is repeated among many different supply chains, including shea and cotton.
Typical Shea Butter Supply Chain
In most African countries, shea trees are public property, so village women in countries like Ghana and Burkina Faso travel very long distances in order to pick up the fallen shea nuts as their means of income, then bring them back to the village where they are sold to traders. The women face very dangerous working conditions (such as extreme heat, snakes and long distances to travel) and receive very low prices for the shea nuts because it is a monopsony industry, where buyers dictate prices due to the seasonality of the crop and the lack of information available on the ground as to its worth. From there, the shea nuts travel to exporters, who ship them to processors in Europe, before they are passed on to larger brands for processing in the United States, Scandinavia and Japan.
This cycle of value added activities increasing the price demanded for the finished product is very common across many commodity supply chains. One further example that is near to our hearts is the cotton supply chain.
Typical Cotton Supply Chain
From this information, it is clear to see that the farmers who grow the cotton needed for the clothing we take for granted are receiving pennies on the dollar. At Gallant international, our products such as canvas tote bags are made using organic cotton or Fair Trade cotton and they are made at a Fair Trade certified factory. We have partnered with one of the most ethical manufacturers and local farmers in India to make custom tote bags, custom cosmetic bags, custom drawstring bags and apparel that we sell, so we can regulate the costs and sustainability at every point in our value chain. This method of production is the most fair and equitable to both farmers and the consumer because we are able to keep our costs low by removing extraneous middle men and redirecting that money back to our farmers and workers.
We hope that through this conversation, you are starting to understand the value in Fair Trade and direct supply chains, and that you as a consumer will push the brands you purchase from to integrate more transparency, sustainability and ethics into their supply chains. By having closer ties between the farmer and the consumers, quality of life improves, and happier workers make better products, so it’s a win for every single person involved.
Direct Trade and Fair Trade
Since the early 2000s there has been a growing debate over the merits of direct and Fair trade products as well as heated debates over which system works better. Both are economic models aiming to reduce inequalities in commodity supply chains and shorten the distance between producer and consumer. Both also aim to improve farmer livelihood and traceability along the value chains from farm to shopping bag.
But do you know the difference between the models? Or what the major criticisms of each model are?
According to ethicalcoffee.net, “Direct trade is a term used by coffee roasters who buy straight from the growers, cutting out both the traditional middleman buyers and sellers and also the organizations that control certifications such as Fair Trade and Bird Friendly, for example. Direct trade proponents say their model is the best because they build mutually beneficial and respectful relationships with individual producers or cooperatives in the coffee-producing countries. Some roasters do it because they are dissatisfied with the third-party certification programs, while others want to have more control over aspects ranging from the quality of the coffee, to social issues, or environmental concerns.”
Fair Trade, as we have explained before, is a "trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.”
World Fair Trade Organization https://wfto.com/fair-trade/definition-fair-trade
This is done through intensive site visits and audits to ensure that Fair Trade farms adhere to predetermined international standards created by Fair Trade labelling organizations that take into account child and slave labor, sanitary conditions on farms.
Despite the documented differences, there is still a lot of confusion regarding what the difference is between these two systems and how they benefit (or harm) farmers.
According to Bluetigercoffee.com, in regards to coffee specifically, “Fair Trade and Direct Trade are terms that apply to ways of purchasing coffee and other agricultural products grown abroad.
Both Direct Trade and Fair Trade:
Serve to promote environmental protection, economic sustainability and the rights of laborers and farmers alike.
Set standards that must be met by the grower to receive the designation of being either Direct Trade or Fair Trade Certified.
Set prices above the cost of production for the farmer
Have environmental regulations regarding disposal of hazardous and organic waste, maintenance of natural resources, and the use of herbicides and pesticides.
Address labor issues, ensuring workers are paid minimum wage and that health and safety standards are being met.
However, what Blue Tiger Coffee fails to add is that roasters, while well-intentioned, more often than not know very little in regards to labor and environmental best practices. The majority of direct trade purchasers are specialty or boutique brands seeking to find the best quality raw materials and who choose to work with the farmers themselves. Driven by a desire to finding the best of the best (whether to satisfy their own taste preferences or their customers’), buyers will travel to remote villages in search of producers or farmers who can supply products that meet their unique needs.
The beginnings of direct trade, some could argue, sprung out of a necessity to mitigate one of the biggest risks (and unforeseen consequences) associated with the Fair Trade model: quality control. While Fair Trade certification is the best economic model bar known in monitoring farmer and environmental welfare, the current global marketplace leaves many quality lacunae in its trenches. The ever increasing demand for quantity and the ability to produce large volumes quickly often leaves farmers victim to purchasers who want to watch their margins while bringing home the best quality product possible according to set market prices. Without much bargaining power in these situations, farmers will sell their goods with the highest market value (and hence quality) to conventional, or non Fair Trade buyers. This means they have to leave the rest of their stock for Fair Trade buyers because they know they will get an above market rate and a premium regardless of the quality of the products sold.
While this system has been historically unfair to the consumer, the good news is that Fair Trade certifiers are working hard with buyers and producers to bring more education around the issue, and to develop better products for consumers. What has not changed however, is the lack of industry knowledge or standards for direct traders who simply purchase products from farmers and do little to invest in the environmental and social issues that may be preventing their partners from accessing more equitable and prosperous futures, like access to microfinance loans, skills development training or social projects like building wells, schools or roads.
The biggest flaw of the direct trade model is that the consumer must believe in the company in regards to social and environmental best practices. Without third-party certification, there is no way to validate the company’s claims nor their standards for measurement. Additionally, the company could start out with high standards but then lower them over time, and again, with no independent auditor to verify conditions on site, there is no accountability for the company as to where the premium price you as the consumer are paying for your product goes. And remember, you as the consumer have no proof of the buyer’s knowledge of social or environmental best practices, so the farmer, and the surrounding environment and inhabitants, could be in harm as a result of subpar farming practices.This is especially true in regards to cotton farming that is not organic, as it releases huge amounts of pesticides in the air that poisons farmers’ families, makes water undrinkable and ruins the soil making farming for edible crops impossible (Check out this great article on cotton from the World Wildlife Fund).
In conclusion, while direct trade is a noble attempt at challenging the capitalistic and advantageous buying system so prominent in many commodity sectors, it is always better to have the verification of a third party to ensure that people and planet are healthy and happy. So always look for Fair Trade labels (and organic cotton bags or clothing!) when you go shopping.
5 ways farmers and artisans benefit when you buy Fair Trade products
Have you ever thought about the person that made the clothing you’re wearing? How about the communities that weave, dye and package the bags you carry, the sweater that keeps you warm or the blanket that wraps you up before you fall asleep at night?
With the holiday season coming to a close and New Year’s around the corner, we at Gallant wanted to remind you of why it is so important to purchase Fair Trade and Organic products whenever possible.
1. Supporting Environmental Sustainability
When you buy fair trade, organic cotton you are supporting environmental sustainability through organic practices that reduce and/or eliminate the use of harmful toxic agrochemicals, pesticides and other chemical additives. Many fair trade cotton farmers work with sustainable production methods to help keep the natural environment thriving for generations to come.
2. Fair Prices
The people who make our clothing have families, homes, assets and communities to take care of. They work hard to ensure the products we purchase are beautiful, well made and functional. By purchasing Fair Trade products, you are ensuring that the artisan is receiving a living wage and isn’t getting undercut by the long supply chain of importers, exporters, processors, brokers and retailers before getting to you. WIth Fair Trade, you support a fair price for products that is set by the international Fair Trade Labeling Organization. That way, you don’t undercut the little guy and you can rest assured the item you purchased is doing good for someone’s life.
3. Empowering Local Communities & Workers
When you buy fair trade, organic cotton bags and clothing, you help the workers, organizations and communities involved in the production to receive a living wage. This is a direct support against commodities practices that leave workers without the minimum salary required to have basic food, shelter, medical care and education. A choice for Fair Trade means a choice for empowered workers who can support their families.
4. Investing in Community Building
When you buy from a fair-trade producer, you also invest a small amount of your money in that local community via a fair trade premium. Whereas many cotton producers live on conventional plantations with child labor, no basic amenities like housing or bathrooms and awful living conditions, Gallant’s fair trade cotton operatives provide artisans with fair wages and living conditions while reinvesting revenues back into local businesses and community development initiatives including housing, healthcare, education, leadership training and women’s programs.
5. Fair Trade means partnership – not exploitation
Fair Trade bypasses “middlemen” and challenges big business. It is a way of working with communities to ensure that they have a say in the products they are creating and that we as consumers aren’t taking advantage of their resources or skills. Fair Trade businesses value the knowledge inherent in local communities and leverages that to create beautiful goods that are meaningful, handcrafted and sustainably sourced. We create long-lasting partnerships and invest in our communities, instead of conventional extractive supply chains that destroy the communities and inhabitants they source from.
Fair Trade vs. Free Trade
At Gallant International, we see ourselves as changemakers fighting the global battle against inequality and injustice in supply chains. We do this by disseminating information into the global marketplace in hopes of educating consumers who want to make more conscious decisions on a daily basis. As we shape the conversations around Fair Trade, we often encounter tough topics that can be confusing to grasp and hard to find veritable sources on, like the benefits and drawbacks of direct trade, the proven data that Fair Trade is making a difference or how to measure impact in the global economy.
Today, we’re going to tackle an even tougher debate: the differences and advantages of fair trade and free trade. What is the existing literature and what arguments do each side purport? Are they enemies or can both systems coexist together?
If you’ll give us a moment of your time, we are going to provide a simple explanation of the difference between the two trading systems in a synthesized format that will leave you feeling like you have a better understanding of the global purchasing ecosystem as a whole and hopefully leave you inspired as to how you can take part in improving it.
“Free trade is the only type of truly fair trade because it offers consumers the most choices and the best opportunities to improve their standard of living. Free trade promotes innovation because, along with goods and services, the flow of trade circulates new ideas.”
Free trade at its heart is a movement pushing for trade liberalization, which is the opening of markets to all players with no preferential treatment, and a removal of tariffs, subsidies and quotas. This means that governments don’t restrict imports from, or exports to, other countries.
Before we continue, it’s important you understand some terms.
A quota is the max amount of product that can come into one country from another. This is done to balance the flow of goods and to protect domestic industries that can’t compete with international firms and keep prices of product at a reasonable level. (if there is too much supply of 1 items, demand falls and prices drop, meaning product goes to waste or the producers don’t receive a fair price for their work).
A subsidy is kind of like free money or a tax break that a government gives to a domestic firm or industry in order to make it competitive in the global marketplace. For example, US cotton farmers get subsidies (cash, land, seed, equipment, etc) from the government in order to produce more cotton that any other nation in the world. This helps American farmers and allows them to charge very low prices per pound of cotton, whereas a small cotton coop in Ghana can’t compete because their government did not give them any help, so they need to charge more for their cotton in order to do basic things like eating, paying rent and sending their kids to school.
A tariff is a tax that a country must pay to another country in order to bring its goods and/or services across international borders--think of it like a tax. This is done in order to protect domestic firms and give them a competitive advantage over the competition, which is very helpful when the foreign country has some kind of advantage that allows it to produce products at scale, for example China with electronics or the United States with wheat or cotton. Advocates of free trade think that there should be no more tariffs, subsidies or quotas because there are no more country lines or preference for domestic versus international companies and no special preference for anyone. Trade is trade, period.
The benefits of this line of thinking are economies of scale and market innovation, which means more options for consumers,and market competition, which means lower prices consumers have to pay.
However, with mass competition comes with a lot of negative side effects as well, such as the race to the bottom in order to find the cheapest supply chains, widened wage gaps, awful working conditions, loss of local industries, monoculture and mass unemployment. With no taxes and no controls in place to protect smaller companies, larger monolithic firms can dominate the market, then demand whatever they want of their workers. The consumer benefits, but this comes at the cost of worker and environmental welfare.
Basically, it’s the wild west of international trade.
The United States actually already has free trade agreements with 20 countries, and some examples of famous free trade agreements include NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The issue with these agreements come when American jobs are threatened by international competition and politicians and economists begin to argue over the causes of income disparities and stagnating job markets.
Free trade, while an interesting idea at its core, is a system that can be easily manipulated by a few large players at the results of the economies, jobs and environments of others, and is a similar experiment to lots of children trading cards at school. Some kids have more cards than others, some have better hands than others and some have no cards at all. Without supervision and monitoring from a recognized authority, like the World Trade Organization, the opportunities for certain students to take advantage of the system (whether through partnerships with their friends, their own skills or unfair advantages afforded to them because of their economic backgrounds) become increasingly evident and the winners and losers are decided even before the game is up.
"Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
It contributes to sustainable development by offering workers better trading conditions and companies better quality products and increased environmental performance. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade."
Fair Trade is more than just trading:
It proves that greater justice in world trade is possible.
It highlights the need for change in the rules and practice of conventional trade and shows how a successful business can also put people first.
It is a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty, climate change and economic crisis.
Fair Trade, contrary to popular belief, isn’t the opposite of free trade. Because of its small scale, Fair Trade isn’t subject to the same problems that plague countries trying to export their raw goods at massive levels. Fair Trade works on a local scale with producers in communities and gives back to people and planet through education, communal knowledge and skill and development. Through Fair Trade prices and premiums, local communities are actually improved as a result of their businesses relations, and experience increased financial resilience, productivity and community buy in.
However, as with any system, there are flaws. Due to its small size, there are much lower volumes in Fair Trade partnerships than in free trade, and there will never be the potential to ever come close to the amount of goods produced in free trade markets because the model is based on quality of life over quantity of goods sold. This also makes the system hard to scale and the impact generated is very little in comparison to free trade. In some countries, due to lack of resources and corrupt governments, Fair Trade doesn’t work as a model, and it will take more time to develop the industries needed for workers to prosper. Additionally, large companies profit off the system by using a very small percentage of their supply chain to be Fair Trade certified, while 100% of their marketing proclaims that they are a social company.
Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, a famous economist, argues that free trade creates asymmetric globalization Unequal benefits, no job safety net for workers and creates a system of winners and losers. Fair Trade fights these claims by increasing wages through premiums and providing long term employment through close trade relationships, which boost local economy, raises income and leads to higher GDP and more efficient global supply chains (Check out this great article written about his theories on the free trade charade).
In fact, according to this report issued by Fair Trade International in Australia, workers who are Fair Trade certified are 80% more likely to invest in value add activities and productivity of their farms, which optimizes global trade.
Additionally, Fair Trade farmers receive monthly trainings and practice permaculture which raises their output. As Fair Trade grows, there are Increased international networks which mean more partners wanting varied crops, which increases income stability and allows workers to compete in the global market while working within existing tariff and quota structures.
So where does that leave the consumer? If you want to create the most impact do you try to support large companies that help a lot of people a little bit, or try to buy products from companies working in local communities at a small scale?
Ultimately the choice is up to you, and the more research you as a consumer do before purchasing a product, the better you will feel. Being actively engaged in your purchasing is the best way to create impact because you will be able to know without a doubt that you are helping someone on your terms, not the market’s.
Stay tuned for ideas on ethical fashion companies to check out and how Fair Trade works with local American communities to raise awareness about ethical purchasing.
Fair Trade versus Fairly Traded
Labels can be super tricky to navigate these days. Terms like organic, Non GMO, direct trade, fair trade and fairly traded are all worded in such a way that the consumer can’t distinguish between what is an accurate description of the ethics behind the product they are consuming and what is marketing to get their money. Because greenwashing is becoming industry standard, buyers are losing confidence in all labels and wondering how to accurately know what is the true story behind the company they are supporting with their dollars and how they can best support causes they care about.
The easiest way to do this is to look for labels that require a 3rd party to verify the working and environmental conditions in the supply chain, like Fair Trade and GOTS do. The other option is to do research on the company themselves to see what their practices are, but that can be hard to do and time consuming. In some cases, smaller companies are doing good but can’t afford certification, or their supply chain is so small or localized that they don’t need to certify. This is where direct trade or fairly traded labels can be helpful in relaying information that is crucial to the success of smaller businesses.
When you see the term fairly traded, it is ubiquitous moniker that indicates a company is trying to convince you that they are doing good and are doing so by their own standards. Certification is expensive, so when a brand chooses to write fairly traded, they are telling you that they believe enough in their supply chains to ask for your support of their product, even though they aren’t providing any proof. This is fine for smaller companies to practice as they establish themselves and scale operations so they can provide more impact to their workers and community. A lot of smaller companies, like Shea Moisture for example, put a lot of money back into their communities, give bicycles to workers and focus their efforts on employee empowerment. This is a wonderful way to use business as a force for change however we as consumers have no clue what the impact is to their workers’ welfare because these inputs are unmeasured so impact cannot be verified.
In contrast, larger companies with that same label that have many product lines in multiple chain stores cannot make the same claims around financial constraints or the ability to audit their supply chains. By this point, third party verification is a necessity to ensure the effects of their business on workers and the environment are positive due to their size and scale of operations. Playing the ‘trust me’ card at this level of engagement is dangerous and usually when larger companies begin to twist standards and processes in order to make more profit--almost always at the expense of the worker.
In this article written by SustainAbility, a consulting firm in England, CEO Rob Cameron cites examples of famous larger firms like MOndelez chocolate and Sainsbury who decided to drop Fair Trade labels and create their own, with mixed results. Cameron writes, ‘Sainsbury’s has been a pioneer of Fairtrade in the UK and its game-changing decision in 2008 to stock only Fairtrade bananas is the stuff of Fairtrade legend. It led the field and others followed. So its decision to drop the Fairtrade logo on its tea in favour of its own fairly traded scheme is significant. By focusing on its own proprietary scheme, Sainsbury’s aims to reclaim the relationship with the consumer – it believes its brand values are strong enough for customers to trust its own scheme, and it intends its brand equity to be reinforced as a result.
But Sainsbury’s is going further and appears to be insisting that it plays a role in determining the use to which premiums are put. Now, Fairtrade is awash with apocryphal stories as to how premiums have allegedly been (mis)used... it is true that some producer groups need help on decision making and enacting those decisions, which is where the likes of Sainsbury’s could help. But to take away the right of producers to decide is strangely disempowering. It is also high risk for Sainsbury’s.’
The issue of premiums is a crucial argument in the defense of Fair Trade certification. Fair Trade is the only certification system that uses collective bargaining by cooperatives or community groups so that the workers can decide together how to invest the money they earned in order to improve their communities. When larger brands take that choice away, the whole model is compromised. Yes, better working conditions are a basic human right and trade that is focused on the producer as much as the brand should be made exemplary. But when brands take that story into their own hands and inadvertently exploit their workers’ well-being for consumer dollars by changing the dynamics of the Fair Trade relationship and premium allocation, a gross negligence is committed that compromises the entire model, as well as consumers’ faith in Fair Trade.
That is why we should always look for verified sources of information to communicate the story of how things were made over a brand’s labelling or marketing. Fair Trade labelled products are the best way to purchase so that producers, consumers and ethical brands can all prosper. Fairly traded terminology is nebulous, confusing and sometimes misleading, so please exercise caution when choosing products with those terms. It’s up to you to make the conscious choice to make a difference with you dollar, so you can make a choice for conscious purchasing.
All those sustainability labels: What’s the difference?
Decoding the labels on packaging is always tricky. Each label means something slightly different and resonates differently with consumers. To better help you decode the labelling frenzy, we at Gallant have provided a simple breakdown of each certifier to help you better assess what is important to you as a consumer to purchase:
The Rainforest Alliance was established 17 years ago with the aim of halting the destruction of the rainforests by providing solutions to the problem of deforestation rather than just raising awareness. Funded by the US Agency for International Development and a number of private agencies, it sets out to provide farmers with economic incentives to stop them destroying their environment. A Rainforest Alliance product is guaranteed by a third party to meet high standards for wildlife conservation, worker welfare and benefits to local communities. While farmers can use pesticides, the amount and type is strictly controlled and must continually be reduced.
According to https://www.rainforest-alliance.org, in January 2018, the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ (another certification program) merged into one organization, called the Rainforest Alliance. The UTZ certification program focuses on agriculture, whereas Rainforest Alliance certification covers forestry, tourism, and agriculture; they also offer a portfolio of services such as corporate advisory, field implementation projects, and more. In 2019, the new, combined organization will create a single agriculture certification standard, simplify the certification process, and continue to improve livelihoods for farmers and forest communities.
Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products that must be 95 percent organic, meaning no pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, radiation or genetic engineering was used. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants.
According to https://www.ccof.org/organic, ‘Certified organic foods are produced according to federal standards set by the USDA National Organic Program. These standards were implemented in 2002 in the wake of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and continue to be interpreted and developed by the National Organic Standards Board, a federal advisory committee appointed by the secretary of agriculture. Organic standards address many factors: soil quality, animal raising, pest and weed control, and use of input materials. Materials approved for and prohibited from organic production can be found on the National List.’ There are currently 48 certifying agents throughout North America and another 32 in Europe, Asia and Australia, according to https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/
certifying- agents. Criticisms of organic certification include misuse of the label, false assurance of quality and erosion of standards.
The Non-GMO Project’s seal verifies that products have been “produced according to rigorous best practices for GMO avoidance,” including testing of all GMO risk ingredients (http://www.nongmoproject.org/). The Project’s current action threshold for testing is 0.9%, which is on par with the European Union standards. While final products don’t have to be tested and the label doesn’t guarantee a product is 100 percent GMO-free, you can be sure that products bearing the seal have met the highest standards possible for non-GMO, including testing, traceability, and segregation. This organization does a lot of educational outreach and awareness raising, as well as building up sources of non-GMO products.
The biggest differences between the labels comes down to premiums, collective bargaining and price. Rainforest Alliance provides no premiums to farmers because they focus on improving efficiencies at the farm level and in turn don’t charge licensing fees for printing their logo on packaging, making them cheaper for companies to use. The also have less strident requirements for their customers, which allows them to certify a larger range of products than Fair Trade. Organic certification, while providing a premium price per pound to farmers to justify the higher quality of their crops, doesn’t dictate where that money needs to go, and doesn’t focus their audits social standards on farms, so there is no attention paid to community welfare (outside of health concerns presented by pesticides or other toxic growing substances for crops) or collective bargaining. Non GMO offers no incentives to farmers and doesn’t assure any environmental or social welfare to producers--it is simply verifying the ingredients in the bar and is purely health-based.
For more information on these labels and more, check out Mother Nature network.
They did a fabulous breakdown of what types of products each label certifies and is a great quick read to inform yourself on the various options there are out there on your products. We hope that helps you on your journey to uncovering the secret language of coding on your favorite supermarket products!
Fair Trade in the community: Towns, Universities and Congregations
By now I’m sure you understand that Fair Trade is an economic model focused on farmer welfare, sustainability, worker empowerment and high quality products. But did you know Fair Trade is about more than just brands? It is a movement that has been sweeping advocates in towns, colleges, schools and congregations across 23 countries for over 30 years!
Fair Trade Campaigns is an arm of Fair Trade USA that encourages towns and cities across the United States to adopt a commitment to fair trade in their communities. Fair Trade Campaigns leverages community activists to raise awareness about fair trade and social and economic justice through events promoting Fair Trade, audits of local stores and offices to see what Fair Trade products are being carries, as well as working with local governments to sign resolutions committing publicly to Fair Trade sourcing. Fair Trade Campaigns aims to join consumers, activists, socially responsible businesses and retailers, faith-based groups, and local government in their promotion of fair trade communities and when one of these groups meets certain criteria, they are awarded a Fair Trade status.
Globally, over 1,600 communities and thousands of schools and congregations on 6 continents have joined together to alleviate poverty through Fair Trade.In the US alone, there are 45 U.S. Fair Trade Towns:
Media, PA – 2006
Brattleboro, VT – 2007
Milwaukee, WI – 2007
Amherst, MA – 2007
Taos, NM – 2008
Northampton, MA – 2008
San Francisco, CA – 2008
Montclair, NJ – 2008
Ballston Spa, NY – 2008
Chico, CA – 2009
Bluffton, OH – 2009
Burlington, VT – 2009
Highland Park, NJ – 2009
Buena Vista, CO – 2010
Red Bank, NJ – 2010
Madison, WI – 2010
Norman, OK – 2010
Conway, MA – 2010
Boston, MA – 2010
Berkeley, CA – 2010
Teaneck, NJ – 2010
Chicago, IL – 2011
Greenwich, CT – 2011
Healdsburg, CA – 2011
Mankato, MN – 2011
Princeton, NJ – 2011
Claremont, CA – 2012
Winter Park, FL – 2012
Chapel Hill, NC – 2012
La Mesa, CA – 2012
Fond du Lac, WI – 2013
Pasadena, CA – 2013
Bloomington, IN – 2013
Dayton, OH – 2013
Alexandria, VA – 2014
San Ramon, CA – 2014
Chelsea, MI – 2014
Lawrence, KS – 2015
Cleveland Heights, OH – 2015
Overland Park, KS – 2015
State College, PA – 2015
Olympia, WA – 2015
Philadelphia, PA – 2015
Santa Rosa, CA – 2015
Houston, TX – 2017
This movement all started in a little town called Garstang (UK) in 2001, under the leadership of Bruce Crowther (more about that here.). The campaign, which aimed to promote Fair Trade certified goods in the town, was highly successful: within a couple of months, awareness of the Fairtrade Mark jumped to over 70% in the town while sales of Fairtrade certified goods increased significantly. Incredibly, over the course of the campaign Garstang developed links with Fair Trade cocoa farming communities in West Africa, which led to the twin town relationship with New Koforidua, Ghana. The core of this model is empowering Fair Trade advocates to educate their communities and build consumer citizenship which allows citizens to get together in order to self-proclaim their town (or other local geographical area) as a region that complies with a few general Fair Trade criteria.
Fair Trade Colleges & Universities also grew out of Fair Trade work in the U.K. This movement ensures that Fair Trade products are sold and served at campus-owned and operated outlets to scale impact amongst a younger generation of advocates. For nearly 14 years, the global Fair Trade Towns movement has inspired thousands of communities to pave the way for driving impact through institutional and consumer purchasing decisions.
What’s really interesting and inspiring is the story of Wales.
In 2002, the Wales Fair Trade Forum, a network of development NGOs and Fair Trade campaigners, began working to make Wales the world's first Fair Trade country. The idea was based upon the Fair Trade Town scheme run by the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK. In 2005, the Welsh Assembly Government agreed to back the idea and in 2006 Fair Trade groups from Scotland and Wales agreed the criteria for becoming a Fair Trade country.
The draft criteria for a "Fair Trade Nation" are:
75% of the population should purchase a Fair Trade product every year.
40% of people regularly buy Fair Trade products.
All local authorities have active Fair Trade groups working towards Fair Trade status.
55% local authority areas with Fair Trade status with 10% annual increase in following years
Fun fact, Wales eventually became the world's first Fair Trade nation in June 2008! To this day they organize events and awareness across the country and are still committed to ethical sourcing and brands in their supermarkets. Read more about that here.
What is so wonderful about Fair Trade campaigns is that it allows advocates of all ages and walks of life to practice their values in their local community and empower many different types of people outside of just brands to enact change for farmers. Look up a Fair Trade campaign near you and get involved! In addition to local campaigning, educational activities and network building, you could also get access to great products, fun events and more!
Gallant International Goes to Universities: Sponsors of a Fair Trade Pop Up Market
Last year, Gallant International started partnering with college campuses to spread more Fair Trade awareness (and our awesome totes!) with younger consumers. We started this outreach because we are passionate for ethical businesses and believe in the power of conscious consumerism amongst all ages. We also did it because we crave real-life community experiences that create opportunities for discussion, awareness and empowerment of local businesses who are committed to high environmental and social standards.
In December, we were able to sponsor an ethical Holiday Pop Up Market at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey. Hosted by the Fair Trade Club, the annual event draws up to 500 visitors.
We chose to sponsor this event because of the commitment to ethical and sustainable purchasing, stewardship of the environment and the desire to spread awareness to a large audience. The theme of the event, which is so near to our hearts, was the damaging effects of fast fashion, which can be summarized by the maxim “Fast fashion is a disaster for women and the environment.”
“Fast fashion” is a term that refers to cheap clothing that is mass-produced constantly by major retailers to capitalize on trendiness. But to move those clothes to market quickly, tens of millions of poor people suffer low wages and abusive labor practices, and the environment pays with toxic byproducts, and disposable clothing clogging landfills. To learn more about the effects of fast fashion, check out the documentary the True Cost on Netflix, or read more here.
We at Gallant stand behind our commitment to sustainable, ethical and affordable clothing that is beautifully and lovingly made. We hope that in the new year, you will join us in our fight against fast fashion and will continue to support global artisans all over the world!
Gallant and Fair Trade: Why Ethical Fashion Creates Superior Brands
Here at Gallant, we pride ourselves in specializing in the most beautiful private label bags and accessories that are made of exceptional quality. We start with ethical production at the grassroots level and are fully committed to providing handcrafted quality products that not only benefit the environment but the people who make and use them.
Each of our products has a story, a livelihood and a purpose:
To help farmers get a fair price for their cotton and to ensure our factory workers are well-paid so that our consumers know they are getting the best products made under the best conditions.
But why do we do this? What is the point of working so hard to ensure that our workers and local environment are treated well and even receive additional wages and benefits that are higher than our competitors’?
The answer is simple: Because we care about the people who make our products, the planet that produces them, and the consumers who help make our business sustainable.
When Gallant International founder Vik Gallant travelled around India and saw the plight of the farmers and factory workers, he knew he had to do something to help them. Devastating stories about human rights violations in garment factories and cotton farms around the world like the Rana Plaza disaster and cotton farm slavery and child labor violations are on the rise, which drove Vik and his family to create a sustainable solution.
Those are the roots that helped create Gallant International and the driving motivators for all of our decisions. From choosing to purchase the best eco-friendly ingredients like 100% organic cotton from certified producers to paying our workers Fair Trade wages, benefits and premiums, we have made a commitment to ethical fashion and we stick to it. We also create the most beautiful products that are durable, stylish and affordable. By sticking to our values of quality, price and sustainability, we are able to ensure our workers better working conditions and livelihood, our environment an improved outlook and productive, rich soil and our consumers more chic and long lasting products.
A purchase from Gallant means a sustainable solution to global poverty and a beautiful product for you that is made with love!
What is a sustainable business?
Nowadays, everyone seems to be throwing around the word sustainable like it’s going out of style (which would be ironic, right?). Every major clothing, soft drink and even energy company has some kind of initiative that is sure to make the world a better place all while creating the products we love to consume.
This is as well and good, and certainly makes us feel better as we purchase their products, but what does sustainability actually mean in regards to business operations, consumerism, and our impact on this planet?
In the financial sense, sustainability means longevity, making sure that your inputs don’t cost more than your outputs so that the company can run for a long time and create more value for its shareholders and society.
However, there is another definition of sustainability in business, one that has a larger positive impact on society and the planet that views longevity in a very different manner:
A green business is an enterprise that has minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy and strives to meet the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.
Instead of just looking at financial returns to gauge their success, green businesses incorporate principles of sustainability into each of their business decisions and make an enduring commitment to environmental principles in their business operations. This include worker welfare, environmental well-being, community development, sustainable packaging and all the outcomes that a business’ activities create for the world we live in.
At Gallant, we are proud to say we are a green business and use different metrics to understand our impact. We look at how we treat the soil we grow our cotton on, how happy our workers are and what our products do to our local environment. We think that the way we run our business, with our Fair Trade and Organic standards, will actually make our business financially sustainable as well because we are transparent in our practices and let our customers know our values. Learn more about our canvas tote bags by clicking this link
Sustainability goes beyond marketing or labels, it is in the core of a business’ identity.
It is in every individual that makes that business possible, from the farmers growing the organic, pesticide-free cotton to the artisans hand-weaving beautiful eco friendly cosmetic bags to the shipping center that uses recyclable packing materials.
By being a green business with integrity and respect, Gallant International will continue to grow and we will create more organic cotton t shirts, organic cotton tote bags, organic cotton aprons, and private label custom made items that are not only beautiful, but truly sustainable. We integrate sustainability into every step of our supply chain because we believe that is the right way to run a business.
So the next time you hear or see a business saying that it is sustainable, ask yourself what kind of sustainability are they referring to, and where are the footprints they are leaving behind?
Because the footprints we leave behind will show the world where we are heading in the future.
Sustainable Packaging: What’s the big deal?
Last month, the European Union announced that it wants to make all plastic packaging recyclable, reduce single-use plastic and restrict microplastics. The plan is to make all plastic packaging recyclable by 2030 and increase how much plastic is recycled.
Why is this important?
Because by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish if we continue at the rate we’re going.
If you think that sounds bad, the United States represents 5% of the global population yet produces 30% of the planet’s waste! Once you visualize what that means and start to understand the devastating effect plastic has on our planet, sustainability becomes a major deal.
That’s why we at Gallant work so hard to produce everything, from our raw materials to our final packing, in a sustainable and organic fashion that isn’t harmful to the environment. We work with our producers and suppliers to source the highest quality materials that will not only benefit your wardrobe, but the planet as well! Our goal is to make products that make you look good and feel good, while giving back to the planet that created them in the first place. We have a solution for your packaging needs. We make custom drawstring bags which are Fair Trade Certified.
Because let’s face it: an ocean full of plastic isn’t pretty. Please contact us for drawstring bags bulk, custom cotton tote bags, custom canvas tote bags, reusable produce bags, promotional tote bags organic and much more.
What are your thoughts? Let us know by leaving a comment below on how we can help solve the plastic crisis.
Five reasons conventional cotton is bad for consumers
Cotton is one of the most popular fibers in the world and is used in nearly half of all clothing today. Cotton has been used for fabric since prehistoric time and has been found in civilizations from Mexico all the way to Ancient India over 5000 years ago. What made cotton so widespread in popularity was the invention of the cotton gin, which lowered the cost of production and lead to high profits.
What most consumers don’t know about this fluffy crop is that the production of cotton is extremely taxing on water and land resources--it can take more than 5000 gallons of water to produce 1kg of cotton:
That is equal to a single T-shirt and pair of jeans.
If those facts aren’t enough to make you rethink the benefits of conventional cotton, here are 5 more reasons why cotton is bad for you:
1. Conventional cotton production also accounts for 18% of worldwide pesticide use and 25% of total insecticide use. While pesticide use isn’t as concerning in clothing as in food, our skin is the largest organ and it is covered with tiny pores, so we literally ingest what we wear. That means that trace chemicals can be passed into our bloodstream everytime we wear conventional cotton these clothes.
2. Producers of conventional cotton are being poisoned by the heavy pesticide use: more than 10,000 US farmers die each year from cancers related to such chemicals. Even people who drink from water supplies near cotton farms run the risk of ingesting pesticides that have seeped into the ground. Pesticides have been shown to not only harm the earth and its natural resources, but to also cause severe health problems like ADHD, weakened immune systems, and birth defects.
3. More than 200,000 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1997. In India, one of the biggest cotton exporters in the world, around 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide (about one every thirty minutes) since the mid 1990’s. Two factors have transformed this ancient livelihood for farmers: the rising of costs of cotton production and the falling world prices of cotton. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalization of fast fashion. Cotton farmers will poison themselves with insecticides because they are in so much debt due to falling cotton prices because of shame and despair.
4. Conventional cotton growing is heavily subsidized by public funds, which drives prices down to ridiculously cheap levels, but at what cost? The toll on the environment and the farmers who grow the cotton is not reflected in conventional cotton prices and so doesn’t reflect the true cost of the fabric. In addition, we as Americans don’t get the chance to vote on how those public funds are allocated or who is receiving our money, so the negative impacts of the government’s choices are far reaching and nebulous, to the point where we can’t account for who is impacted or to what extent.
5. Conventional cotton fabric is processed with chlorine bleach. Hydrogen Peroxide and formaldehyde are also applied in the processing of the fabrics--It takes one-quarter of a pound of chemicals to produce one conventional cotton T-shirt, and one-quarter of a pound of chemicals to produce 2 pairs of conventional men's boxer shorts. That’s a LOT of nastiness in your undies. And if you purchase dyed fabric, you can be pretty sure that carcinogens derived from the bleach were used. Blech.
As you mull these points over, remember that we aren’t trying to make you feel bad for your wardrobe or the great deal you got on that cute top last week. We are just trying to present the facts to you so you can make more sustainable choices for yourself this year. Conventional cotton has really negative impacts on so many individuals, and the more you buy, the more the environment and its people feel the effects.
There are a ton of alternatives for you to consider, like thrift stores or Organic Fair Trade cotton clothes and bags that have positive effects on the environment with your purchase.
Educate yourself and make an informed choice the next time you update your wardrobe because hey, spring is just around the corner.
Organic Fair Trade cotton
When most people think of organic, things like apples, coffee and lotion come to mind. Other key words like expensive, premium and Wholefoods probably pop up somewhere in that grouping as well.
It seems like we’re constantly being told that organic equals healthy and that that is good for us to eat and drink, but why is it important to use organic clothing? We’re not eating the fabrics we put on our body, so what is the big deal?
1. No nasty pesticides.
Materials like cotton that are grown organically don’t use pesticides, which is better for the planet, the farmers that grow the plant and the surrounding environment and its inhabitants. In addition, the runoff from those pesticides affects the water that we drink, turning it toxic, which is a big no no for our collective health.
2. Your body is covered with tiny mouths
Your skin is your biggest organ and it is covered with thousands of little tiny mouths called pores that take in everything from the environment, so it’s as important to put non-toxic things on your body as it is to put in your body. People with skin sensitivities who experience rashes when wearing conventional clothing can definitely attest to this. Your skin is like a cloak of armor to protect you from harm, and when you cover it 24/7 with pesticides and harsh detergents, you’re bound to end up with problems down the road.
3. You support businesses and farmers that are doing good while looking good
Who doesn’t love to support a good cause or know that you put your money where your mouth is? I bet it feels about as good as a soft, organic cotton t shirt flowing against your skin, doesn’t it? Ultimately, what we are paying for is a cleaner environment and a safer world. Companies that use Fair Trade and Organic materials in their clothing make a commitment to worker and environmental welfare and improved communities. Brands that invest in their ingredients are taking a closer look at the impact their business has on planet and its habitants, and usually use their profits to give back and support local ecosystems that provide education, employment and empowerment for future generations. This investment is not arbitrary or greedy marketing. It counts for something.
With all the bad press conventional cotton has received, hundreds of brands are taking a stand and creating beautiful products that you can flaunt for affordable prices. Here is a list of 150 companies that are making great products that also happen to be Fair Trade in some cases, which is double bang for your buck.You can always rest assured that our Gallant International, Soul Space and Terra thread lines will provide everything you need for an organic, sustainable, Fair Trade lifestyle, from bags, to clothing to accessories.
That’s the deal with organic and Fair Trade clothing-- you can protect the environment, its people and your health by shopping responsibly, and feel great about it!
Look good, feel good and do good--that’s all we’re asking.
5 Reasons to Use Fair Trade and Organic Cotton Bags:
It’s no secret that disposable shopping bags are everywhere. From department stores to gas stations, we as consumers can count on receiving anywhere from 1-3 shopping per purchase. In most places in America, stores give away these bags for free and seemingly don’t give a second thought to where they end up after use.
Well, let’s think for a second...where do all those plastic bags go after we finish using them (and usually only 1 time)?
Are you surprised? The average American goes through six shopping bags per week. With a population of roughly 323 million, that means almost 2 billion bags are used and discarded in America every week!
As you can see, all of that trash adds up. That’s why we at Gallant have compiled 5 facts about plastic bags and conventional cotton that we think are good reasons for you to pick up a reusable organic cotton bag. We hope that in doing so, you can make the next bag you throw out your last.
1.The Environment: A plastic bag can take from 15 to 1,000 years to break down...and paper bags don’t do much better. As a completely natural fiber grown in the fields, Gallant organic cotton bags are completely biodegradable, giving them an amazing advantage over many other synthetic materials. This means we do not have to worry about cotton filling up landfill. Plus, our bags are fashionable so you’ll want to keep using them for all of your purchases!
2. The Planet: Conventional cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounting for 25% of all pesticide use.
According to the USDA, every year over 50 million pounds of pesticides are used on U.S. cotton fields. Pesticide and fertilizer use on cotton has been linked to ground and surface water contamination, and the pollution of drinking water. In California, cotton ranks third in the state for total number of pesticide-related illness. So much damage to land, animals and humans that grow it is caused by the release of dangerous toxins from nasty things that are degrading – organic cotton does not do that.
3. Our conscience: The cost to recycle plastic bags outweighs their value, so most recycling facilities will not take them. Instead of being recycled, they are thrown out with the rest of the trash.
I know I have tried to recycle plastic bags so that I feel better about using them once and then throwing them away, but unfortunately not everything that is put in the recycling bin gets recycled. Organic cotton is completely reusable, can be recycled into things like paper, new clothing products and even feed for mushrooms! Organic cotton bags also make great gifts and donations to thrift stores.
4. People: Today’s global fashion industry employs over 60 million people - most of which work in unsafe factory and environmental conditions while receiving extremely poor wages.
The fashion industry is the world's second-largest polluter, just behind the oil industry. At Gallant, we ensure that employment is freely chosen, working conditions are safe and hygienic, our artisans are paid Fair Trade living wages, and child labor is forbidden. When you purchase one of our organic cotton bags versus a bag from one of the larger brands, you are investing in water conservation, cleaner air, better soil and farmer livelihoods. If you are concerned with the welfare of others, using organic fabrics has a major positive impact on your health and the health of our planet.
5. Most importantly... Style: Organic Cotton bags are versatile, durable, easy to accessorize, and a great fashion accessory!
The next time you are out shopping, make sure you remember to bring a Gallant Organic Cotton bag with you so you can help the planet, its people, and your wardrobe!
3 simple ways to live a sustainable life in 2018
Welcome 2018! There’s a new year new you attitude in the air and the world seems rife with possibilities for self-improvement, change and good intentions. With new year’s however also comes disappointment, fad diets, impossible resolutions no one can achieve and the guilt of having another year go by with the feeling that you really aren’t making a difference.
We at Gallant want to ring in the new year by encouraging you and reminding you that you CAN make a difference and that it’s the little things that really count, not the over-the-top promises or grandiose ideas that change the world. Aa Confucius himself quoted over 2500 years ago:
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
To ring in 2018, here are 3 small stones you can start to carry that won’t take much effort at all and will really make a difference for people in your local community and across the world.
A powerful way to live more sustainably is to eat locally. The convenience of supermarkets has changed how people think about food. Get outside, meet your local farmers and get some free samples! Farmer’s markets are great ways to support your local economies, eat fresh produce that actually tastes like food and to be less wasteful on a daily basis.
Recycle as much as possible! I know the colored bins can be confusing at times (which one is plastic? Composting? What’s that?) but here is a resource to help you learn more about how to properly dispose of your waste. Even though Americans pride ourselves on being the best at just about everything, it turns out that Europe is kicking our butts when it comes to recycling waste. 69 percent of the things Americans toss out end up in landfills. This is compared with 1 percent in countries like Belgium and Sweden! Both Germany and the Netherlands have completely eliminated their landfill usage, with 62 percent of trash being recycled or composted. The other 38 percent is turned into energy from waste.
If your neighborhood or apartment complex doesn’t offer recycling pickup, either find a drop-off location or request the curbside service. Buying products labeled post-consumer lets companies know that recycling is the way to go! Goodwill Industries International also accepts electronics for responsible recycling.
3. Purchase Fair Trade Products
When you purchase items that are imported from all over the world — particularly coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, chocolate, and fruit — look for the fair-trade certification. This designation tells you that these items were grown using sustainable methods of agriculture and that local people are receiving fair prices for the goods they produce.
Items that don’t have the fair-trade certification may have been produced unsustainably and may be the product of exploitative labor practices that don’t benefit the local people. We at Gallant pride ourselves on using the best Fair Trade labor and environmentally sustainable practices to produce every bag, tote and product in our line, and a purchase with our company is another small stone that will help create a more sustainable 2018.