Fair Trade: How it has shaped conservation
Nowadays the term ‘Fair Trade’ has come to be a familiar term. When you think of Fair Trade you often think of better labour standards, working conditions and fair prices payed to farmers - but what we don’t think about is the way is has changed our approach to conservation and introduced the concept of "incentive conservation".
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade means the trading company and the producers have worked together to ensure workers (mainly located in developing countries) have been justly compensated and are able to maintain a sustainable business in their community.
For the majority of Fair Trade goods, a minimum price is set to cover the cost of production in that region. This protects farmers and workers from fluctuations in the market prices of the products and ensures a stable income. In addition to a minimum price, a Fair Trade Premium is offered. The premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use to improve their conditions. Producers can decide how to use it to best benefit their community (whether it involves investing in education programs, better healthcare or building roads and bridges).
How did it originate?
Fair Trade first originated in 1988 under the initiative of the Dutch development agency Solidaridad, when the first Fair Trade coffee from Mexico was sold into Dutch supermarkets. It was branded Max Havelaar, after a fictional Dutch character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies. Since then the Max Havelaar initiative was replicated in several other markets across Europe and North America. In 1997, Fair Trade International was established in Bonn, Germany to unite the national Fair Trade organizations under one umbrella and harmonize worldwide standards and certification. In 2004, the international Fair Trade Certification Mark was launched. The goals of the launch were to improve the visibility of Fair Trade certifications on supermarket shelves, facilitate cross border trade and simplify export procedures for both producers and exporters.
Why is it important?
Fair Trade has really helped to integrate conservation practices directly into business models. Conservation practices today incorporate behavioural economics and offer incentives as a way to protect the environment.
A wonderful example of this is shown by Veja; one of the brands offered by Fjordlife.
The Amazon is the only place on earth where rubber trees grow in the wild. Local rubber tappers live in the forest and directly harvest from the trees. Since the 60’s the increasing use of synthetic rubber derived from petroleum has resulted in a low price for natural rubber. This has forced locals to move towards cattle raising and wood extraction, which both involve land clearing, to earn a living. As a consequence of the land clearing, soils are no longer protected by the cover of vegetation and are subjected to accelerated erosion rates further destroying the land.
To help combat this, Veja works with local rubber trappers and offers them a premium price for the rubber (which is then used in the soles of the shoes they sell). By paying locals a premium price for the rubber, they have more incentive to protect the forest.
A perfect example of incentive conservation.
This approach to conservation works so well because it takes locals needs into account. Fair Trade principles are not only about offering fair working and safe conditions, its about taking local needs into account and providing long term solutions that will move people out of poverty while also protecting the environment.
It's amazing to think how much impact a consumer can make by simply purchasing a pair of shoes!
To learn more about the benefits of Fair Trade take a look at this video which breaks it down for you, http://fairtrade.ca/en-ca/what-is-fairtrade/what-is-fairtrade#
Shop our Fair Trade products here
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