"Glocal.” It’s a word that highlights how a person living in another country may as well be your neighbor in today’s world, with your daily purchases and choices greatly affecting the lives of others. And few things highlight the meaning of this word better than the yearly efforts of ethically-minded shoppers and retailers during the month of October.
October 2012 marks the 9th annual National Fair Trade Month. This is an important time of the year for the Fair Trade movement when brands, retailers, NGOs and consumers unite in efforts to increase public knowledge about Fair Trade efforts.
Fair Trade is a market-based approach to alleviating global poverty in a world where over 2 billion people live on wages that equal approximately 2 USD per day.
According to nonprofit group Fair Trade USA’s website, the Fair Trade enterprise has empowered and aided millions of workers in developing countries. The movement’s efforts to combat poverty revolve around supporting the creation of sustainable jobs and better trade conditions.
In addition to encouraging practices that allow workers to build community businesses, Fair Trade efforts support environmentally-friendly projects and work methods, highlighted by ongoing sustainable development of farming communities.
During Fair Trade Month, a combination of educational events, in-store sampling programs, online initiatives and community gatherings will help increase awareness and sales of Fair Trade Certified products, ultimately leading to greater impact for farmers and workers in developing countries, according to a press release put out by PRNewswire.
This year’s Fair Trade Month theme is “Count Me In,” and shoppers are encouraged to take the Fair Trade Month pledge at www.FairTradeUSA.org/FairTradeMonth. Money spent by consumers on Fair Trade products goes towards improving the livelihood of workers across the world that are involved in Fair Trade’s efforts.
The success of the annual campaign and the Fair Trade brand is reflected in a 2009 Globescan study, which revealed that once a shopper is aware of what Fair Trade means, 8 in 10 will buy Fair Trade Certified products.
“As a result of its collaborative marketing programs, Fair Trade USA and partners reached nearly 30 million consumers during Fair Trade Month 2011, reinforcing the message that our everyday purchases have the power to improve lives and protect the environment,” according to Fair Trade USA’s website.
Fair Trade is most often associated with the sale of coffee beans, although other Fair Trade products include coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, and gold.
Fair Trade enterprises have continuously developed and spread through America and Europe for decades, although the term “fair trade” was not coined until the 1980s.
“With support from consumers and businesses alike, farmers and workers have earned more than $77 million in community development premiums to farmers and workers since 1998,” said Mary Jo Cook, Chief Impact Officer of Fair Trade USA. “Fair Trade Month is a time to celebrate this accomplishment and inspire a new generation of passionate supporters to help us deliver more impact to more people.”
A blog post by the Valparaiso International Center highlights the 1940s as the very beginnings of the movement; then, Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer for the Mennonite Central Committee, began to sell the products of poor artisans in Puerto Rico in her hometown in Pennsylvania. Eventually, she and colleague Ruth Lederach brought products to the Mennonite world conference in Switzerland, becoming what many consider the first fair traders. They continued their work successfully through the 1950s and 1960s, during which time one of their stores grew into one of the most well known Fair Trade enterprises, Ten Thousand Villages.