In a recent lecture at NDNU, John Perkins, author of "The Secret of an American Empire," spoke of the consumer decisions that we make as being as important as our vote if we wish to reclaim our country and what we value. He should know because he participated for many years as an EHM (economic hit man), sadly involved in economic dirty tricks for the U.S. government until he changed his ways after 9-11.
"Our vote has power," he said, "but equally as important is how we use our power daily as consumers." It is not easy to be a responsible consumer, but it was never more necessary. This means being aware of a changing picture of trade practices. So-called "free trade," is not necessarily fair trade. Many countries who can ill afford it have suffered from unfair practices that keep their citizens poor while rich countries determine the trade rules in their favor.
That's why in 1998 Paul Rice began Fair Trade USA urging businesses to change to supply chains that were more direct, and that favored the producer rather than the processors, distributors, or corporations.
Today Fair Trade USA has certified over 800 brands including coffee, chocolate, tea, clothing and many other items which carry its Fair Trade Certified label. Part of the certification process includes making sure the product comes from a sustainable farm (auditors around the world check this) and that the farmer receives a fair price. And an important part of the fair trade movement includes ensuring that products were not harvested or made with trafficked labor.
So drinking a cup of fair trade coffee or enjoying a bar of Divine Chocolate or buying a gift for a friend from a company like Serrv.org reaches across the world to help a family feed their children and keep them in school! I like knowing that such a simple action can improve the quality of someone's life.
Do you buy fair trade items? Why or why not?