About Fair Trade
The United Nations (UN) estimates that a person needs at least $4 a day, about $1500 a year, to live a basic decent life. By this measure, of the 6.5 billion people in the world today, four billion people do not live a decent life.1 This does not seem fair to us.
Fair Trade is a way of doing business that strives to help people.
Fair Trade provides not only jobs but also hope and dignity to those who need it most.
Fair Trade also provides conscious consumers a real and tangible way to get involved.
That is the beauty of how we can “Come Together” to Change the World.
History of Fair Trade
The humble beginnings of Fair Trade in the United States can be traced back to the late 1940’s when Edna Ruth Byler, a church volunteer in Pennsylvania, and her husband took a trip to Puerto Rico as part of their work with the Mennonite Central Committee. Deeply affected and inspired by the impoverished women seamstresses she met there, Edna began selling the products and telling the stories of the Puerto Rican women in an effort to help them work their way out of poverty.
Literally selling products out of the trunk of her car and operating a gift shop from the basement of her home, Bylar laid the groundwork for what eventually became Ten Thousand Villages, North America’s first Fair Trade organization.
In 1949 the Church of the Brethren established SERRV, which became North America’s second Fair Trade organization, selling hand carved wooden cuckoo clocks made by WWII refugees in Germany.
The late 1960’s saw the United Nations Conference on Aid and Development embrace the concept of “Trade not Aid” bringing Fair Trade into development policy.
The 1970’s saw the political agenda of the Fair Trade movement sharpen as food items, especially coffee, came into the limelight as goods that could be vital in the reduction of poverty. Dutch advocates imported the first “fairly traded” coffee from a cooperative of small farmers in Guatemala in 1972.
Over the last three decades, a number of significant international Fair Trade organizations have been established including labeling and certification groups that ensure consumers that Fair Trade practices and policies are being carried out and enforced. Listed below are a few of the largest organizations that coordinate, facilitate and promote the Fair Trade vision of social and economic justice for a better world:
The Fair Trade Federation is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. The Federation is part of the global fair trade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty.The FTF seeks to alleviate poverty by continually and significantly expanding the practice of trade that values the labor and dignity of all people.
The Fair Trade Resource Network (FTRN) seeks to improve people’s lives through Fair Trade alternatives by providing information, leadership, and inspiration. FTRN gathers, develops, and disseminates educational resources to people and organizations interested in the movement to build a more just and sustainable world through Fair Trade.
The WFTO is a global authority on Fair Trade, not because we say so, but because our members make it so. Membership of the WFTO is limited to organizations that demonstrate a 100% Fair Trade commitment and apply its 10 Principles of Fair Trade. The WFTO is the authentic voice of Fair Trade, having driven the movement for 20 years. It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale.
1Fair Trade, a Beginners Guide by Jacqueline DeCarlo, Oneworld Publications