Ask Gen-Z what Fair Trade is and they’ll likely look puzzled.
Fresh from the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) Summit in Berlin last week, we want to share with you what’s happening in Fair Trade today.
How The Fair Trade narrative is changing
Fair Trade gathered momentum in Europe in the 1960s when it was often seen as a political gesture against neo-imperialism: and used the slogan at the time, ‘Trade not Aid’.
At I was a Sari, we’ve been inspired by fair trade principles since we started, and worked as if we were a fair trade certified company, but actually have never applied for certification. Why? We had it as a priority in 2020 and then COVID hit, and we had other urgent priorities.
This year we went to the annual WFTO Summit in Berlin, the world’s largest gathering of Fair Trade businesses and allies. The WFTO verifies social enterprises that practice Fair Trade. We went to understand more about how the WFTO, and to meet the members, their global community across 76 countries. Fair Trade Enterprises, supply chain managers, ethical market leaders, citizens and supporters who work on social, economic and environmental transformation.
What did we discover?
That although Fair trade is an old concept, it’s still very relevant.
That it used to be focused on social issues like supporting small producers, ensuring fair pay, good working conditions and no child labour- all practices close to our hearts.
Now the movement is more comprehensive towards the environment as well. It was refreshing to see how much climate change is at the centre of the agenda.
Fair Trade Today
We were impressed by how aware the members were about the old school colonialist view of looking at the concept of the North helping the South through Fair Trade.
For I was a Sari, an Indian company selling mainstream products internationally, with a European founder, the relationship between global North and South is very important, and for the artisans we work with too.
Manpreet Kaur Kalra from Art of Citizenry gave an excellent presentation that resonated with us. Especially the idea that we don’t empower anyone, people empower themselves.
Quality and design
Being fair trade doesn’t mean you get to make excuses for quality and design, but rather using great branding, product quality and desirable design to compete with mainstream brands.
We were impressed by some of the brands and curated collections that we have seen there that reinforce our conviction that fair trade and desirable design can coexist.
Two of the brands that inspired us were:
Made 51 is a UNHCR brand, products made by refugees.
Beyond Beautiful is a curated selection of artisanal Fair Trade products by WFTO.
We believe that by joining the WFTO we can learn a lot and prove that the Fair Trade approach can be contemporary, quality and desirable.
Applying to become Fair Trade Certified
It was exciting to be at the Summit in Berlin! We saw that we belong at the Fair Trade table, and want to play a more active role. We’re even more motivated to apply and before end of the year we hope to be part of the WFTO family.
To be a WFTO member, an enterprise or organisation must demonstrate they put people and planet first in everything they do. In our case, the certification is not for the products but for us, the organization as a producer. So we’ll be judged on our governance, working conditions, impact on environment, workers’ pay and more.
We hope soon to tell you we’ve been accepted as WFTO certified company.
You hold us accountable.
So thank you.