Taking a coffee break and indulging in a creamy bite of chocolate or a nutrient-packed banana will taste a whole lot better if we know that these everyday products are fairly traded! 21 February – 6 March 2022 is the annual Fairtrade Fortnight celebration, reminding us to ‘Choose the world you want’. But what do we mean by Fair Trade or fairly traded and how does it make our morning coffee even sweeter? Better still, how can we inject the goodness of fair trade into our other purchasing decisions?
Some of us may be familiar with the Fair Trade certification label, commonly used on coffee, tea, bananas, chocolate, sugar and cotton items, particularly in the West. But Fair Trade is a global movement and we wanted to understand a little more about its origins, what it really means and how to look out for fairly traded products in Hong Kong.
What does Fair Trade mean?
If an item is Fair Trade certified, or fairly traded (we’ll come onto that later) then it means that the producer or farmer has been paid a fair price for the item, which can often be commodity goods, such as coffee, tea, bananas, cotton etc, and that an extra premium has been provided to reinvest back into the community to help support education, child welfare, healthcare, basic needs and overall community development. The concept of fair trade also supports worker’s rights, including no child labour, and helps to protect the environment.
The origins of Fair Trade
The concept of Fair Trade dates back as early as 1946 in the US where Ten Thousand Villages (then known as Self Help Crafts) purchased needlework from Puerto Rico. In the UK, in the late 1950’s, Oxfam shops began selling crafts made by Chinese refugees. Across Europe and the US, other ‘trade not aid’ initiatives which supported marginalised communities began to emerge.
In 1997 the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO) was launched, today known as Fairtrade International, and has become the parent body for all national Fair Trade organisations and controls the official Fair Trade certification process. Because prices for commodity goods are dictated by market conditions, sometimes the prices are driven so low that producers are unable to meet their basic cost of living. The Fair Trade certification guarantees a premium price for these items, with a minimum rate which can fluctuate upwards, but not below the base rate.
Fair Trade or fairly traded?
There are multiple Fair Trade systems, which can be a little confusing, but broadly speaking fair trade labelling can be broken down into three areas:
- Fair Trade certified commodities, holding the official Fairtrade certification from Fairtrade International (only applicable to commodity goods), commonly seen on coffee, tea, chocolate, cotton, bananas, and even beauty items such as shea butter and coconut oil etc.
- Fair Trade certified non-commodities, such as handicrafts, fashion, home goods etc, holding other certifications, eg the World Fair Trade Organisation labelling scheme.
- Fairly traded goods, which still adhere to the principles of fair trade, but may be part of another labelling scheme, such as Rainforest Alliance, or simply a brand’s in-house mission and producer partnerships, eg The Body Shop applies fair trade principles to all of its ingredient sourcing.
Where to find Fair Trade in Hong Kong
At ethikaal. You can search by ‘Fair Trade’ at ethikaal to find a selection of coffee, tea, beauty and fashion items, all of which are fairly traded. Even if items are not classified as Fair Trade then rest assured that we carefully curate all our brand partners to ensure that they are committed to fair wages, worker’s rights and environmental protection.
At the supermarket. Look out for the Fairtrade Certification on popular brands of coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar at your local store.
Fair Trade Hong Kong. Keep up-to-date on Fair Trade developments in Hong Kong through our national Fair Trade organisation and find out which organisations are supporting Fair Trade in the region.
We are big fans of the concept of Fair Trade and the opportunities it provides to communities to become self-sufficient rather than relying on aid. We respect and support all producers who are committed to fairly traded principles and we are definitely sweet on the fact that these products make our lives a little more ethikaal because of it!