Definition

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect and it seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to disadvantaged producers and workers in developing countries.
Current international trade rules and practises can trap poor marginalized communities in poverty. By building Fair Trade relationships with such groups there is hope for improving their lives and alleviating poverty.

A Brief History of Fair Trade

‘Fair Trade’ began in the 50’s with Oxfam selling handicrafts. Later in the 70’s the first Fair Trade coffee was developed and ‘Trade not Aid’ became a well know slogan for the fight against poverty. In 1979 Traidcraft plc started selling Fair Trade products and has been growing ever since. In 1997 the Fairtrade International label was introduced which helped Fair Trade to reach the high streets with its many different commodities such as coffee, tea, bananas and an ever expanding range of products.

Fair Trade Labelling

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) created an evaluation process for evaluating international Fair Trade standards and produced the well known Fair Trade mark. This is used for commodity products such as tea and coffee and has helped Fair Trade reach the mainstream markets by providing an easily recognized and trusted mark. FLO is also actively supporting producers, raising awareness and campaigning for changes in the rules and practises of conventional international trade. 
The Fairtrade mark only really applies to commodities such as tea and coffee and other food products. There was a growing need to develop a system to regulate Fair Trade organizations and handicraft style products. In 2004 IFAT was established to strengthen the credibility of these none commodity organizations and product categories. Currently IFAT does not have a product labelling system but this is currently being reviewed so may come in to practise soon.

The main Principles of IFAT are broken into 10 points:
1. Create opportunity for the economically disadvantaged
2. Transparent relations with traders to work on equal respect.
3. Develop producer’s capacity and independence.
4. Promote justice where there are unfair trade rules.
5. Pay a fair price.
6. Ensure there is gender equality
7. Ensure there is a safe and healthy working environment.
8. Ensure Child Labour rights are respected under UN, local and social norms.
9. Promote environmentally friendly practises and responsible methods of production. 
10. Trade with concern for producers and build long term respectful relationships.

How Does This Relate To Fair Trade Interiors?
Our aim is to work on the principles of IFAT and after approximately two years of trading we can apply and hopefully join the IFAT accreditation system. Our products are currently sourced from both IFAT accredited producers and non IFAT producers.
In many poor countries such as Cambodia they are only just becoming aware of the term ‘Fair Trade’ and IFAT. However many groups are well aware and practicing the principles of good working conditions, fair pay, safe working environment etc. Fair Trade Interiors chooses producer groups based on these principles but realizes that it is a continuous development process for suppliers and our selves to improve situations within difficult limitations facing the developing world. We aim to work with these very small producer groups who may not have the finances and resources to join the IFAT system yet, so they can develop their business practises.  Our hope is that by helping these groups grow by providing orders and support, they can work towards joining IFAT as it will enable them to reach larger market and gain credibility.

How Can You Make A Difference?

By buying Fair Trade products you can help poor communities support themselves and demonstrate that Fair Trade practises can be beneficial both economically and personally to all people involved. As a consumer you hold the power to make a huge difference to people’s lives. As a retailer you can promote Fair Trade products as a great product offer for your customers and demonstrate ethical buying principles as an economically viable way to do business for all people involved. As an individual you can buy Fair Trade products in your supermarket, local Fair Trade shop and consider where your products come from and consciously buy from ethical retailers. You could hold a sale in your home or community centre to sell products and tell other people about Fair Trade. You could also get involved by joining a local or international campaign promoting Fair Trade to help change unfair trading regulations.

For more information on Fair Trade please visit these sites;

http://www.fairtrade.net/home.html
http://www.ifat.org/ftrinciples.shtml
http://www.traidcraft.org
http://www.oxfam.org

http://www.villagechange.org

Copyright © Fair Trade Interiors 2009