Fair-trade provides the ability to bring about changes in the world every day (Goodman, 2004). By opting for a simple choice, it is possible to provide to the farmers a deal that is better and hence they are in a position to make own decisions, have a control on their future and also lead a life that is dignified. Fair-trade pertains to prices that are better, work conditions that are decent and fair terms that are regarding trade for workers and farmers (Brett, 2011).
Commence of the Fair-trade Movement
The movement for fair-trade has been through a number of significant modifications ever since it started post World War II. Fair-trade was first considered to be a method of charity that was advocated by organisations that were by nature religious, but with the passage of time has undergone radical changes in terms of its structure, approach as well as philosophy (Hunt, 2012). There are roots of fair-trade in the societies of Europe much before the initial emergence of structured organisations for alternative trade post war. A number of fundamental concepts associated with fair-trade had resemblance with ideas that were pre capitalist pertaining to the society and economic organisations.
In such times, farmers could not manipulate the prices by product withholding for prices to increase. Middlemen had restricted roles to play and the poor had the scope of purchasing basic food staples in small quantities. Fair-trade was introduces to address the failures of the market, though the concept was mainly associated with the consumer and not the product rights. Year 1827 witnessed an economic and moral boycott in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of goods that were slave driven with the Free Produce Society being formed. The society was formed by abolitionist members associated with the Religious Society of Friends (Hudson and Hudson, 2009). In this movement the mission was to flight slavery adhering to a tactic that was unprecedented with emphasis on the value associated with honour labour of women and men who were free and also had the motive of determining added costs that were not seen to goods like sugar or cotton that were produced by slaves. Year 1830 witnessed the Coloured Free Produce Society being formed in America with women forming a separate branch in the year 1831. Year 1838 witnessed supporters from different states joining the association with the promotion of seeking alternative products that were non slave (Marcovitz, 2011). The movement was not successful in gaining benefit in terms of the economies of scale with free produce costs being higher than the competing goods. Year 1847 saw the disbanding of the national association though the movement continued in Philadelphia by Quakers till the year 1856 (Lightstone, 2010).
Being initiated post World War II, the early attempts pertaining to fair-trade comprised of commercializing goods that were produced by producers who were marginalised in the northern markets. The movement was started by non government organisations that were politically oriented and also by religious groups. Mennonite Central Committee in the year 1946 and SERRV International in the year 1949 developed supply chains of fair-trade in the countries that were developing (Mason and Doherty, 2015). The products were sold mostly by volunteers in ethnic shops or charity stored and the goods often indicated that a donation was made.
Issues in Current Times
Most of the efforts mentioned above were small in nature and outside of the trade mainstream with the use of distribution methods that were alternative for reaching the goods from producers to final customers (Walton, 2012). 1980s witnessed indigenous Mexican coffee farmers attempting to overcome limited scope of alternative traders and gaining higher access to the significant European markets. This time also saw the creation of the first certification of fair-trade (Miller, 2010). The downside was once alternative trade was considered ethical from production initially to final purchase via distribution, now it was combined with commercial style trade. Companies could promote as being fair-trade irrespective of the degree of sales being actually fair-trade which meant that an entire product line had the scope of benefitting by means of the halo effect of having few products of fair-trade with consumers being unable to differentiate.
Certification for fair-trade gaining prominence resulted in pressure for strict certification being enhanced. In Europe certification was controlled for which producers had to pay resulting in changing dynamics between poor producers and wealthy activists and buyers who were mostly white. There was immense unevenness in the system for trade and though it was better than the conventional methods, by no means could it be considered as being fair and was less unfair-trade. In rural societies, producers of agricultural products in the small scale face absence of a number of significant conditions on which the theory of neo-liberal trade has been based (Powell, 2012). Lack of access to market pertaining to language, transport, education, information and so on convenience the middlemen or huge corporations to exploit.
Alternatives to Fair-trade
The system for direct trade includes the establishment of a long term relation between the producer and the buyer with the amount being paid to the farmer being linked to the crop quality being sold (Stiglitz and Charlton, 2005). This enables the buyer to identify the farming areas that need investment and such improvements are made in association with the community. The model for co-operative business includes members owning and running the company, sharing the profit and democratising the decisions while empowering the producers for future growth (Raynolds, 2012). Employees, farmers or customers can be members having equal say in the operations of the co operative.
Institutional isomorphism is observed in corporate social responsibility and being an alternative to fair-trade third party organisations are brought in for verification of principle abiding in sourcing that is ethical in nature (Griffiths, 2013). These include practices of Coffee and Farmer Equity which aid the farmers to better grow their coffee across the supply chain. Corporate social responsibility as applied by organisations such as Starbucks differs from fair-trade (Wheeler, 2011). It is made sure that fair wages are given to the farmers and the environment for coffee production is suitable for the workers and does not add to environmental degradation or water pollution.
Fair-trade does not accommodate government intervention, and hence it is also an alternative to fair-trade. The government has manifold roles to play for ensuring the farmers receive fair price for their work (Johannessen and Wilhite, 2010). As per government intervention, the companies are required to adhere to regulation compliance and the government is also in a position to act as guaranteed buyer with the assurance that fair prices will be given. As per rainforest alliance, focus is on the sustainability of farms which enables the farmers to smartly grow and enhance the level of efficiency (Wheeler, 2012). Rainforest Alliance is based on economy, society and environment, its pillars for sustainability.
As per the statistics of year 2006, 569 producing organisations were certified as fair trade across 58 developing nations. The World Fair Trade Organisation prescribes creation of opportunity for producers who are economically disadvantaged, accountability and transparency, practices and also promotion of fair-trade, fair price payment, ensuring no forced or child labour, commitment towards non discrimination, ensuring work conditions that are good, capacity building and environmental respect principles (Hudson and Hudson, 2009).
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