The Fairtrade Mark is the independent consumer label that you see on a product that meets international Fairtrade Standards. Why is this important to you as a consumer? It shows that a product has been certified to offer a better deal to people like farmers who produce the product. Many products originate from around the world and they are made by people in developing countries. Fairtrade ensures that these people are paid a fair price, that they work in safe working conditions, maintain a high standard of human rights and there is a prohibition on child labour. Products need to be ethically produced and independently certified and we, as consumers, can be assured that we get a product of high quality and good value for money.
Fairtrade Certified Products use rigorous social, environmental and economic standards to promote safe, healthy working conditions, protect the environment, enable transparency, and empower communities to build, strong, thriving businesses. Currently the Fairtrade certified label applies to products such as apparel & home goods, beans & grains, body care, cocoa and coffee, packaged foods, flowers & plants, fruits and vegetables, honey, herbs and spices, nuts and oilseeds, seafood, spirits, sports balls, sugar, tea and wine.
The global reach of Fairtrade is significant but much more needs to be done with this well-known brand Currently more than 12,000 products from more than 70 developing counties can be found in more than 100,000 retail locations across North America. Fairtrade USA is a non-profit organization located in Oakland California and the leading third party certifier of Fair Trade products in the USA. Fairtrade Canada is located in Ottawa, Ontario.
Building and furnishing homes requires many different products that range from the building materials themselves to the fuel used to run the machinery needed to build homes to the many different products used to furnish our homes. Some of these products are supplied from within North America but many are supplied from abroad.
The Softwood Lumber Agreement (SLA) provided stability for industry in Canada and the US until it expired on October 2, 2015. These cost of softwood lumber is up along with ready mix concrete and gypsum. The rising costs of products like these gets reflected in a number of products used to build homes and in turn the prices of the finished homes go up. This is especially noticeable in small market areas where volume buy discounts are not often significant enough to counter the effects of the higher prices.
While many of the basic building materials are source from within North America, a considerable number of consumer products used to finish and furnish homes are not. When was the last time you were able to find lighting options in your local home hardware store that were made in North America. Many of them are made offshore and they are shoddily made. Moreover some of them are made in factories with little regard for human working conditions where the bottom line dollar value of producing the product for as little as possible is king. We, as consumers, are not well served by that approach and articles for decades have been stating the same thing. Here is one from the Harvard Business Review in 1988 that states manufacturing offshore is bad business.
The article states that companies went abroad initially to secure foreign markets or to obtain raw materials but they then went overseas to buy or make products to ship back to North America. They defended the moves by saying they had to do it to compete with inexpensive high quality imports. The problem, as we have increasingly experienced, is that the imports are often not high quality. In fact some of them are pure garbage. The reality simply did not match the rhetoric. It was all about the bottom line and making money and still is. We need a Fairtrade brand that can be applied to all materials and products used to build and furnish our living spaces. In fact such a process and certification should be applied to all consumer products.
Fairtrade USA and Canada what do you think?