We wanted to respond to a fantastic question we received in regards to our blog post on the Bangladesh incident and fair trade. Kelsy asked:
I just have no idea: how do you know which garments are "fair trade" and which are manufactured at a safe factory? If a sweater from Banana Republic says, "Made in Bangladesh" (or anywhere), how do I know if that particular one was made responsibly? It seems retailers get their clothing from various places, and probably are changing season to season as well. Maybe you could send a follow-up email on how/where to educate ourselves on this. With thousands of factories, it seems like it would be very difficult to know, but maybe there is an easy way? Or should we assume that none of the major retailers care about fair trade? Thanks for educating us!
As we’ve said before, fair trade principles ensure a good, living wage is given and that no exploitation occurs. When you make a fairly traded purchase, you are supporting farmers and artisans in the developing world and their communities. Your purchase contributes to improved healthcare, education, empowerment (especially for women), as well as minimizing negative environmental impacts of commerce.
In order to create a fundamental shift in the way companies do business, you, as a consumer, can shop responsibly and support fair trade. But just as Kelsy pointed out above, consumers looking to purchase fair trade products often face a confusing and wide range of definitions on what constitutes fair trade, as well as the general ambiguity as to which companies do not insist on the application of fair trade principles in their supply chains.
So how does one go about supporting fair trade? Below are some resources to help you become a conscious consumer.
Their list of goods and services is here.
You can view their membership directory here.
(Just as a side-note we are about 3/4 done with their membership application and hope to be a member before the end of the year!)
Their list of committed fair trade brands is here.
Their shopping guide is here.
You can find their Industry Trends Report here.
You can also support small independent organizations, like Buy The Change, that follow fair trade principles and have fully and clearly defined social implications in their mission statements.
Lastly, here is an updated article from the New York Times on the Bangladeshi building collapse. Several major companies have signed the far-reaching factory safety agreement.
We hope that you find these resources useful and informative. Feel free to add any others in the comment section below– we’d love to hear from you.