We're seeing that blue and green label that indicates fair trade more and more. First it was on food, now it's extending to clothes and home goods. And when we see it, we automatically think 'this product is good,' but why? What exactly does fair trade mean? And who does the certifying?
This week, Andria Cheng's article in Market Report discussed how much Fair Trade Certified Products are gaining speed - Fair Trade Certified apparel and home goods grew 5x in 2014 - and what it means for the fashion industry. In short, fair trade is slowly becoming more mainstream as younger, more stylish companies like People Tree understand its value and prove that 'ethical fashion' doesn't have to be boring.
Marci Zaroff, founder and CEO of Under the Canopy, supports the idea that fair trade apparel and home goods "need to be available to a wider mass-market audience" to "effect true positive change," and believes that now more than ever, "People are waking up and saying, 'I want to feel and do good.'" Part of doing good is treating both people involved in production and the earth with respect.
Fair Trade USA, the nonprofit certification group, tries to ensure that this happens. They strive to "enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth." More simply, they play fair, something that we were taught from a young age but too often forget. To Fair Trade USA fairness means minimizing environmental impact, ensuring safe working conditions, and making sure workers are allowed basic rights, amongst other strict criteria - 334 new compliance criteria for textile factories were introduced in 2012 alone.
However, a fair trade certification alone isn't enough for most consumers. Cheng discusses the sweet spot where fair trade becomes cool - a spot where moderate price, beautiful aesthetic, and consumer awareness intersect. We look forward to a future where more and more companies hit this sweet spot and the fair trade cool factor becomes the new norm.
Moral of the Story: Shopping Fair Trade means playing fair, doing good, and empowering people.