Dunkin' Donuts Fights Global PovertyDie-hard Dunkin’ Donuts fans might love the company for its coffee and assortment of breakfast treats, but this New England favorite is proving there is even more to love with some of its philanthropic choices regarding its products. From making ethical decisions when it comes to sourcing its espresso beans to switching to sustainable alternatives for its cups, Dunkin’ is combating global poverty and benefiting the world at large. Here is more information about how Dunkin’ Donuts fights global poverty.

Dunkin’ Donuts Fights Global Poverty with Fair Trade Espresso

Dunkin’ Donuts was the first national coffee company to offer fair trade certified espresso beverages in 2004. This supports the economic and environmental well being of coffee-farming communities around the world. Fair trade certification ensures that coffee farmers are paid livable wages in an industry that often exploits its workers. Many coffee farmers face extreme poverty, job insecurity, unregulated working conditions and labor rights abuses, just to name some hardships.

Dunkin’ Donuts is combating global poverty by choosing to use fair trade espresso beans, which is making a difference in the lives of many families around the world. Andrés Bermeo Calderon, a father, husband and member of a Fair Trade Certified™ coffee cooperative in Chirinos, Peru spoke about how being a fair trade member has changed his life. “For me, the most important part of being a cooperative member is that now I can provide a better life for my family,” he said. He spoke of the hardships he faced before being a member. “Before, our sales were really bad and we had no control over the price. Sometimes we received only enough for the day to buy food and nothing else. Now, we have a better economy and we are able to ask for loans,” he said.

Making Sustainable Changes

Dunkin’ Donuts made the complete switch from polystyrene foam cups to a double-walled paper cup alternative in 2019. While this might seem like a small change, this switch is expected to eliminate “approximately one billion foam cups annually from the waste stream.”

Polystyrene is not only a known hazardous substance and pollutant that can potentially contaminate food or drink contained in it but it also poses an extreme threat to poverty-stricken communities around the world due to the harmful chemicals it produces as it breaks down in landfills. According to the EPA, styrene—what’s left when foam cups break down—leaches from landfills into drinking water. It also creates a huge problem with pollution in the oceans.

It can cause liver, kidney or circulatory system problems. This threatens those living in extreme poverty disproportionately because they are most likely to live near landfills and factories that produce polystyrene cups. Dunkin’ Donuts’ decision to eliminate these foam cups will greatly reduce styrene contamination in impoverished nations. This is just another way Dunkin’ Donuts fights global poverty.

Proving to be more than just a widely successful coffee company with a great cup of coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts is fighting global poverty by making ethical and sustainable changes concerning its products. International companies have the ability to make decisions that have far-reaching impacts. Dunkin’ Donuts is showing that it is using that power for positive change that will have a lasting impact.

– Hannah White
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Coffee Farmers in Ethiopia
Coffee production in Ethiopia accounts for about 3 percent of the global market with around 20 million people relying on it for livelihood in the region. These 20 million workers only see about 15 percent of the profits from the purchase of a bag of beans. Bext360, as well as several other companies, are using blockchain and AI technology to empower farmers through fair and immediate pay, awareness of the market value and direct communication with buyers. By simplifying the coffee production industry and creating transparency through a traceable digital footprint, coffee farmers in Ethiopia can reap the benefits of their harvest in a more efficient and innovative way.

Bext360

Daniel Jones launched Bext360 in Denver in 2017. Bext360 is a Software-as-a-Service platform that allows consumers to trace products from the point of origin, providing a measurable means of accountability.

This provides transparency and efficiency, ensuring fairness to all sides. Through the use of blockchain and AI, Bext360 is revolutionizing traceability in the coffee industry, doing away with the middle-man that takes most of the gains that rightly belong to the farmers.

The Solution

Stellar is a financial tech startup that can handle a high volume of micropayments across borders that allows Bext360—in partnership with Moyee Coffee Company (that sources and roasts its beans in Ethiopia)—to produce crypto tokens that immediately and directly transfers to farmers. Moyee also adds a 20 percent premium payment to all small-holder farmers.

Coffee berry harvesters take the cherries they pick and load them into a special bin (the bextmachine) that appraises the haul while simultaneously sifting and sorting the crop. Farmers have the power to accept or deny the offer for their coffee crop through the use of mobile devices, allowing them to have more freedom and bargaining power.

Bext360 has also created a platform where photos of the coffee bean farmers are available online. This profile also shows how much they are receiving for pay and what the current market value price is. Consumers can view this online profile by scanning a QR code that pulls up the exact location of the farm, and traces the journey and price of the bean to their cup.

How Does this Help Farmers?

The machine that Bext360 created allows farmers to know the value of their crop, and avoid exploitation from coffee companies. It also gives them the knowledge and incentive to take control of the market and harvest at the right time, maximizing return profit.

Coffee farmers in Ethiopia can also have a more direct relationship with buyers. Estimates determine that farmers can have about a 40 percent increase in revenue by using the bextmachine as opposed to other typical washing stations.

Going Forward — Other Companies Involved

Other companies such as IOHK are going beyond supply chain transparency. It is pursuing development in a blockchain training course for local developers who, once graduated, will go on to create their own projects in cryptocurrency in Africa using Cardano technology. This should create even more potential for improvements in all economic sectors, not just the coffee industry.

Through the innovation and scope that blockchain allows, Moyee Coffee Company is able to leave over 300 percent more value in Ethiopia compared to other coffee companies. In May 2018, Moyee also hosted a One Million Cups Campaign in Ireland that sent over $63,448 to Ethiopia. In the future, Moyee hopes to be able to use its blockchain tech to crowd-fund upgrading equipment or building new infrastructure to ultimately improve yields and sever Ethiopia’s reliance on foreign aid in the region.

The benefits of more transparency are twofold: creating greater awareness and participation in consumers, as well as improving living conditions. Living conditions may improve through more equal pay for farmers and ultimately allowing the hard-working growers to reap the benefits of their work and be able to support themselves. It gives coffee farmers in Ethiopia more empowerment over their craft, all the way to the cup of coffee that one buys at the store.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Coffee farms fight world povertyCoffee is the world’s second-favorite drink, only behind water. In the U.S., Americans drink more than 580 million cups of coffee per day. Worldwide, more than three billion cups are consumed per day. To support the world’s love of coffee, many developing countries rely on their coffee-growing industries supported by small farmers. The majority of these small farmers, unfortunately, live in impoverished conditions. With the popularity of coffee and the market, there is a way that coffee farms can fight world poverty.

An Unsustainable Business

Small farmers produce about 80 percent of the global coffee supply. These farmers, known as smallholders, are defined as “owning small-based plots of land on which they grow subsistence crops and one or two cash crops relying almost exclusively on family labor.” An estimated 25 million smallholder farmers produce the world’s coffee supply. Unfortunately, they earn less than 10 percent per pound of the sale value of their coffee. Combined with the added costs of production, this quickly becomes an unprofitable business.

With the current situation being so hard economically, more and more coffee farmers have moved out of the industry. The past couple of years have brought drought and an increase in crop diseases like “coffee rust.” Coffee prices have dropped to a 12 year low.

Not only are farmers unable to support themselves and their families, but there are also a number of other challenges that have pushed them out of the coffee growing business. The environment in which coffee grows best requires a high altitude that is usually in remote and mountainous areas. This limits access to markets and adds the cost of transportation and middlemen. Changing weather conditions and lack of environmentally sustainable practices along with weak management and poor training have led to the inefficiency of coffee production.

In the department of Risaralda in Colombia, lies a small coffee farm known as a “Finca del Café.” Here, there are 10 hectares of land dedicated to the growth of Arabica coffee, a type of coffee that does best in the high altitude. The winding path through the Finca reveals the complex process of coffee growing that takes years of time. The farmer, who learned to grow coffee from his grandparents, expressed the unsustainability of the coffee business in 2019. They had to turn to other sources for revenue such as capitalizing on tourism of the area and building conference buildings.

Is Fair-Trade The Solution?

Despite the current situation of coffee production, the demand for the drink is increasing. If the current trend continues, there is predicted to be a shortage by 2050. In order to help small farmers and the coffee business, many companies are turning to fair-trade. According to the Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics, “the promise of the fair-trade movement is that coffee growers in poor nations will receive a higher price for coffee if it is produced in better working conditions with higher wages.”

Unfortunately, no solution is perfect. Fair-trade impacts farmers by artificially raising the sale price of coffee, targetting production and not poverty. Other initiatives that focus on coffee farmers’ operations and management have shown more success. NUCAFE (National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises) works to facilitate services for Ugandan coffee farmers while having them take ownership of their crops. In Colombia, coffee farmers are investing in digital tools to better manage their farms and transactions.

Coffee and Culture

There are many coffee farms in Colombia’s Cafetero region facing these issues. While some are forced to give up coffee due to the lack of profit, others try to maintain the culture of coffee growing. Coffee farms like the aforementioned “Finca del Cafe” make it their purpose to inform others of the coffee-making process and also to bring awareness to the problems modern coffee farmers are facing.

Local coffee is sold all around the region and coffee is a large part of Colombia’s larger society. The problems encountered by coffee producers can ultimately change Colombia’s culture, a country that prides itself on its coffee.

– Margarita Orozco
Photo: Flickr

Fair Trade ProductsIn 2015, there were 783 million people living in poverty. Although there has been some progress in reducing this number in the past few years, poverty continues to be a serious issue. Fairtrade is one simple yet impactful approach to alleviate this problem. The purchase of fair trade products supports gender equality, children’s and workers’ rights, and sustainable farming. Unfortunately, consumers are often unaware of the availability of fair trade products. This is mainly because they haven’t been generally accessible. The fair trade market is showing signs of growth, however, and the purchase of fair trade products can become a key to promote the reduction of poverty.

The Morning Pick-Me-Up

Starbucks, one of the most popular coffee companies in the world, has been promoting fairtrade globally since 2000. The company is attempting to improve the lives of more than 1 million people who live in communities that revolve around the coffee industry. Toward that end, Starbucks now purchases 99 percent ethically grown coffee through Conservation International and has committed to 100 percent by 2020. The company has also launched a Global Farmer Fund Program which is committing $50 million to finance the renovation of coffee farms.

The goal is to develop more sustainable farming practices with improved employment conditions. More than 29,000 Starbucks stores around the world are having a substantial impact.

The Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is often guilty of using problematic and unethical labor practices, particularly child labor. This is because the industry embeds children in the supply chain to handle low-skilled tasks such as cotton-picking for extremely low wages. For this reason, it is very difficult to pay fair wages and still compete in the industry. Nevertheless, some fair trade products are starting to become competitive.

Athleta and Aventura are two companies that are offering sustainable fair trade clothing. Athleta is an activewear brand that has created more than 40 fair trade styles. They have committed to creating up to 230 by the end of the year.

Aventura sells fashionable, everyday clothing items for women and men that are made using fair trade practices. They use low-impact, sustainable materials for over 75 percent of their styles. The company also partners with Fair Trade USA to give back to the workers who produce their clothing. These fair trade companies provide good alternatives to clothing from brands like Urban Outfitters or Free People.

Scrubs and Suds

Lush is making the acquisition of ethically produced cosmetic products easier. Organizations like Fairtrade International have fair trade certified many Lush products. In some cases where ingredients have not been fair trade certified, Lush forms a direct relationship with the supplier to ensure that workers are treated and paid fairly. Lush also supports sustainable practices by its suppliers. Consumers are supporting improved working conditions in the cosmetics industry by purchasing products from Lush.

For the Occasional Sweet Tooth

Small family farms, the majority of which are located in West Africa, produce 90 percent of the world’s cocoa. Tony’s Chocolonely buys fair-trade chocolate to ensure that farmworkers are treated well and paid fairly. Tony’s is fair trade certified, producing 100 percent slave-free chocolate.

Tony’s works with 5,021 farmers and is committed to providing all of them with a living wage. The company pays its farmers a Fairtrade premium as well as their own premium. With this structure, the farmers get more than 9.6 percent of the retail price. Grocery stores throughout West Africa are making Tony’s chocolate bars easily accessible.

And So Much More…

Fairtrade shopping is one of the simplest yet most impactful ways to benefit the world’s poor. Fortunately, quality fair trade products are becoming easier to find than people might assume. Organizations like Fairtrade America and Fair Trade Certified have validated many ethical companies. It is important to seek out and support companies that sell fair trade products because purchasing fair trade products is a great alternative that facilitates poverty reduction.

– Ryley Bright
Photo: Flickr

Freeset

At the age of 13, Kondola became the tenth wife to an older man and a servant in her in-laws’ house. Shortly after, she was tricked, sold and forced into prostitution in Sonagachi, Kolkata. She was forced to work in order to send money back to her family, who lived in Murshidabad, a high-risk district of West Bengal for human trafficking. Her future looked incredibly bleak. That was until she started a conversation with Annie and Kerry Hilton on the street. Along with twenty other brave women, she took the step to leave the sex trade business that she was unjustly forced into and began a sewing job with Freeset.

How Did This Organization Begin?

In 1999, Kerry and Annie Hilton left New Zealand and moved to Kolkata, signing for an apartment in the middle of the day. To their surprise, by nightfall, they discovered they had moved into one of Asia’s largest red-light areas, Sonagachi, and their neighbors were women who were forced into prostitution. They began building relationships with the women around them, including Mina, a woman who shared a similar past to many others, was advocating for new employment opportunities to help. Head of In-Country Communications, Sophie Bond, told The Borgen Project, despite the fact that “the Hiltons had no experience in manufacturing or business”, they were determined to be compassionate and trustworthy employers who could offer training and a secure job to these women, “to bring real change and freedom”.

Human Trafficking in India

Human trafficking in India is still a prevalent issue that the government must tackle. Two-thirds of the population live in poverty, with 68.8 percent living on less than two dollars per day. A small percentage of the population has benefited from the recent economic boom, in which 133 million Indians rose out of poverty between 1994 and 2012, yet there has been a steady increase in trafficking and violence, with almost 20,000 women and children trafficked in 2016. Victims usually belong to poor families in rural areas, with 70 percent of trafficking victims being members of the Dalit class of the caste system, among the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups in India. Members are prone to vulnerabilities and the pressures of survival make them easy targets to trick with false promises of repaid debts and money for their families. Women are the most vulnerable as social pressures have confined them to the domestic sphere, resulting in having a lack of education and literacy. They are also prevented from any justice or equality, further subjecting them to human rights abuses.

Freeset Today

Today, Freeset makes about 50,000 t-shirts and 240,000 bags per year. All staff members earn wages, with entry-level staff earning slightly more than the average garment maker in West Bengal. The designs are made by the women themselves, as well as by those who have volunteered at the organization. The organization typically sells in bulk orders to larger businesses looking to add their own logos to the merchandise. Bond shared that currently, about 200 women are employed and 30 men. In most cases, each woman supports at least three other family members and share eerily similar, yet simultaneously unique stories of being forced into prostitution by trafficking and poverty.

Freeset Offers Counseling

Tamar, an organization funded by the Freeset Trust, is a means of holistic care in each community. Bond told The Borgen Project, “Tamar is there to help with life skills and supporting women in their new path”. Several of the Tamar staff members are trained in Trauma-informed care, which is a huge part of the lives of the women working at Freeset. “For many of them, traumatic experiences–in the sex trade, as victims of trafficking, in domestic violence–have left deep mental and emotional (not to mention physical) scars. Counselling can help a woman to understand her own behaviors and reactions, as a result of the trauma she has experienced, and give her the tools to integrate into the workplace, and ‘normal’ society”. Additionally, as of 2016, Freeset has been awarded Fair Trade Guaranteed status by the World Fair Trade Organization (WTFO).

What is the World Trade Organization?

Home of Fair Trade Enterprises, this organization recognizes those who are empowering their staff to alleviate poverty. The goal of the WTFO is to transform communities by empowering women, practicing sustainable methods, and applying a community concept to trade those who are typically exploited by larger corporations.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade has become an increasingly integral part of poverty alleviation, as it now impacts about one million livelihoods, with 74 percent of those being women. In fact, 54 percent of senior roles in fair trade organizations are held by women. Fair Trade policies aim to help empower people to combat poverty, strengthen, and take control of their own lives.

What Is The Government Doing To Help?

In India today, women constitute about 14 percent of the total entrepreneurship. However, the lack of equal access to education, employment, labor, and sexual violence hinders further advancements. The government has struggled to combat the issue of human trafficking, as it has been so widespread. Currently, it is looking toward crime prevention and harsher penalties for child prostitution and forced marriage, as well as improvements to protect victims. However, India’s vast landscape and corruption of officials still pose as obstacles that the government must overcome to further the progress throughout the country.

Check this out to see how you can get involved with Freeset: https://freesetglobal.com/volunteer/

– Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

People Tree FoundationWithin the last two decades, the fashion industry has become increasingly cheap and accessible. The term fast fashion refers to rapidly and cheaply produced apparel that cycles out according to ever-changing trends. This term has been integrated into most fashion brands’ profit-oriented business models and has negatively impacted impoverished communities in developing countries.

Fast fashion brands often exploit poor countries for cheap labor, and many supply chains that are connected with big-name brands do not provide safe working conditions or sufficient living wages. For example, nine out of 10 fashion workers in Bangladesh cannot afford enough food for their families.

The People Tree Foundation

However, People Tree is defying the harmful practices of the fashion industry. People Tree is a fair trade brand, based in London and Tokyo, which takes a more people-oriented approach to fashion. People Tree’s work focuses on promoting sustainability, empowering women and improving conditions in poor communities. This fair trade brand is dedicated to producing ethically-made and sustainable clothing by using environmentally friendly materials and implementing good working conditions. People Tree refers to their practices as “slow fashion.”

People Tree is not just a fashion brand; it also works alongside an independent charity called the People Tree Foundation. The foundation works to accomplish three main goals: reduce poverty, protect the environment and spread awareness about fair trade. To reach these goals, People Tree raises funds to provide education and training to people in developing countries, protect the environment by using organic materials and campaigning to raise awareness about sustainable and ethical fashion.

The People Tree Foundation works in countries that are vulnerable to exploitation such as Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Kenya. These countries are susceptible to the injustices of fast fashion because the garment industry dominates their economy and comprises the majority of jobs. The foundation is involved with a variety of fair trade projects in these developing countries that aim to empower artisan groups in small communities.

In 2015, the People Tree Foundation generated more than £10,000 from sales and donations. The funds raised for that year were donated to projects such as Thanapara Swallows. Thanapara Swallows is a nongovernmental organization in Bangladesh committed to educating and training the poor population and creating health awareness and self-employment opportunities. Thanapara Swallows built a school in Bangladesh that educates nearly 300 students who are getting five years of primary education, and People Tree supports 50 percent of their school’s running costs.

Other Sustainable Solutions

In the fight against fast fashion, People Tree is not alone. Many fair trade organizations and brands have been on a rise in popularity. For example, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which People Tree is a member of, is among the organizations leading the movement toward ethical and sustainable fashion.

The WTFO has over 330 Fair Trade Enterprise members and over 70 supporting organizations that are committed to abiding by fair trade practices, including respecting the environment, ensuring gender equality, providing fair wages and good working conditions and ensuring opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers. The WTFO has impacted over 965,700 livelihoods by creating a fair trade standard for brands to follow. Brands verified are by the WTFO through peer reviews and independent audits.

Ultimately, the future of fashion remains in the hands of the consumer. Making conscious purchases makes the world one step closer to making the production of apparel more sustainable and humane. Other ways to practice sustainability include reducing consumption by buying only what you need, buying only secondhand clothing and researching the companies behind products online or on the website and mobile app Good On You.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Media Server

Why people should shop fair tradeOver three years ago, Cathy Marks was hired for the managing position at the fair trade store, Ten Thousand Villages, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When the previous company she worked for, a franchising company, was sold, Marks was temporarily unemployed. During this time, she decided to look for a career in “something more meaningful.”

Having shopped at Ten Thousand Villages in the past, Marks said she was “intrigued as a customer” from the positive impact Ten Thousand Villages makes in preventing global poverty. It didn’t take long before she applied for the position. Since then, Marks is enjoying her job in the fair trade industry. She says her favorite part is telling stories about the artists to customers because the stories allow customers to make connections between specific artisans and their culture with their products.

Marks believes fair trade is necessary because it helps people in developing countries have higher standards for their communities, their homes and their educational systems. Here are 10 reasons why people should shop fair trade.

10 Reasons Why People Should Shop Fair Trade

  1. Fights Global Poverty and Hunger – Fair trade guarantees workers are paid at least a “minimum floor price,” or the amount it costs for them to produce their product. This standard ensures workers are not living in poverty, resulting in them being able to live comfortably with an income that fulfills their basic household needs such as food and clothing. On top of that, it also ensures workers have a surplus sum of money which they are able to save for future needs.
  2. Empowers Workers – Because fair trade ensures workers are living above the poverty line, workers are able to spend less time worrying about where their next meal is coming from, and more time planning for their future. Instead of depending on others for help, they have control over their own lives. They have the ability, time and resources to make choices for the good of themselves and their community.
  3. Positively Impacts Communities – On top of their wages, workers in the fair trade industry are also given premiums. Premiums are funds that workers can put toward whatever they feel will best benefit their community. For instance, workers can use premiums to better their community’s educational system, healthcare system, environment, recreational facilities or water access. This ensures better conditions and futures for workers’ communities.
  4. Ensures Safe Working Conditions – Fair trade protects workers’ basic human rights. It ensures they work reasonable hours and work in an environment that is free of harmful chemicals and substances. Marginalized and vulnerable populations are equally protected under fair trade standards. Workers are paid a wage that allows them better health and better nutrition.
  5. Prohibits Child Labor – Fair trade standards ensure no forms of child labor and child slavery are used on farms. Children under the age of 18 are then able to attend school and lead healthier lives. The fair wage gives workers the resources they need to ensure their children receive proper nutrition.
  6. Protects Women’s and Minorities’ Rights – Fair trade ensures that women and minority workers are not discriminated against. No matter the workers’ age, race, religion, gender or ethnicity, all are treated equally. All are guaranteed fair wages and ethical working conditions.
  7. Promotes Environment Sustainability – Fair trade products are created using limited amounts of pesticides and fertilizers. They are not genetically engineered and utilize the most efficient amount of waste, water and energy as possible. In addition, many fair trade products are made from recycled materials. This helps preserve our planet’s natural resources.
  8. Keeps Indigenous Cultures Alive – When people shop fair trade, they get to experience multiple cultures from across the globe without having to go overseas. Each product, whether it be clothing, coffee beans, baskets or jewelry, comes from an artisan who spent their time and talent crafting the product. Through fair trade, artisans are able to keep their culture alive, share it with others and pass it down to the younger generations.
  9. Supports Ethicality – When shopping fair trade, people make a statement about how they think employees in developing countries should be treated– with fairness and equality. They are saying they believe all farmers and artisans should be paid at least minimum wage for the products they produce and that all farmers and artisans deserve to live a comfortable, healthy life. Buying fair trade raises awareness of the issue of unethical labor tactics.
  10. Meaningful Impact – Every time someone consumes a fair trade product, they are fulfilled, since they know their purchase is helping someone across the globe live a life free from poverty.

Like Marks encourages her customers, these 10 reasons show why people should shop fair trade. By shopping fair trade, workers’ rights are protected. They are treated equally and paid fairly. They are able to attend school and live in a comfortable, healthy environment. Their cultures are kept alive. When someone shops fair trade, they are helping keep the industry alive. Through a simple Google search, people can find a fair trade store near them to shop at and join the fight.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Fair Trade Product by Emily Turner

What You Need to Know about Fair Trade
Imagine being in the local supermarket, perhaps in the coffee aisle. There is an abundance of options, from decaf to french vanilla and everything in between. Some of the choices have a special seal marked “Fairtrade.” But what does that mean? Here are the facts to know about Fair Trade.

What is Fair Trade?

One fact to know about Fair Trade is the difference between Fair Trade and Fairtrade. Fair Trade is a set of social, economic and environmental standards for companies and the farmers and workers who grow the food millions enjoy each day. Fairtrade, on the other hand, is a trademarked labeling initiative that certifies a product has met the agreed Fair Trade criteria.

For farmers and workers, standards include the protection of workers’ rights and the environment. For companies, they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium. This premium can be used to invest in business or community projects of the community’s choice.

How does Fair Trade combat poverty?

The Fair Trade argument is that the poor are being paid less than fair prices for their products in the free market trading system. The Fairtrade foundation states that its goal is to “empower marginalized producers to become economically stable and self-sufficient and to promote sustainable development, gender equality, and environmental protection.”

Offering decent prices for products can help support jobs and improve living conditions for producers, their families and the local businesses they buy from. It can also divert young men from involvement in militias. The intention is that this will ultimately decrease conflict levels in impoverished nations.

While not all poor states are volatile, data indicates that violent conflict contributes to poverty in a number of ways. It can cause damage to infrastructure, break up communities and contribute to increased unemployment and forced displacement of peoples.

Additionally, free trade boosts economic sectors, thereby creating more jobs and a source of stable increased wages. As developed countries move their operations into developing countries, new opportunities open for local workers. An increase in the general standard of living reduces hunger and increases food production. Overall, a higher income makes education more accessible, increases literacy, increases life expectancy and reduces infant mortality rates.

Fair Trade focuses on the exchange between individuals and companies. Fair Trade supply chains utilize direct partnerships that take into account the needs of individual communities. Often times, cross border supply chains strengthen ties between two or more nations. By bringing people together in mutually beneficial trade pacts and policies, Free Trade can contribute to a sense of peace in war-torn areas. Through cultural exchange, there is a rare absence of marginalization in this type of commerce.

What are the disadvantages to know about Fair Trade practices?

Although the Fair Trade movement has good intentions, it also has a few disadvantages.

Fairtrade targets farmers and producers who are financially secure enough to pay certification, inspection and marketing fees, which are necessary to ensure compliance with government regulations. Thus, the poorest farmers who would benefit most from Fairtrade certification are often excluded.

Fairtrade minimum prices and wages ensure fair payment of farmers. However, farmers for non-certified products are left at a considerable disadvantage. When prices fall in the world market, it is the non-Fairtrade certified farmers who suffer. That being said, prices in stores are not monitored by the Fairtrade Foundation. Thus, the producers receive only a small piece of the revenue from retail mark-ups.

Conversely, research conducted by various groups such as CODER, the Natural Resource Institute and Brazilian based BSD Consulting has shown positive impacts of Fair Trade practices around the globe. In Colombia for instance, a 2014 study by CODER assessed the impact of Fairtrade for banana farmers in small producer organizations and workers on plantations. The study concluded that Fairtrade, with the support of other organizations, contributed to a revival of the banana sector in Colombia and increased respect for human and labor rights. Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Fairtrade on worker empowerment in Ecuadorian flower plantations and the benefits of Fairtrade orange juice for Brazilian smallholder farmers.

Here are the facts to know about Fair Trade that can help consumers make informed decisions in their daily lives. Many everyday food items like coffee, chocolate, fruit and nuts offer Fairtrade certified options in local grocery stores. Change is already happening in the Congo where Fairtrade certified gourmet coffee is sourced from war-torn regions. Companies such as Tropical Wholefoods have begun to sell Fairtrade certified dried apricots from northern Pakistan. Just an extra minute in the grocery aisle and a few extra cents to choose Fairtrade can make a big difference.

-GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

grape industrySouth Africa, a country located at the southern tip of Africa and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean, is home to a vast number of grape plantations. Many of the grapes that come from these plantations are used to make wines first-world consumers enjoy. Popular brands include Capensis Chardonnay, Porseleinberg Syrah, and Ernie Els Signature Blend. But as delicious and luxurious as these wines may be, the grape industry they come from are using unfair labor tactics.

Unethical Conditions

A 2017 study done by Vinmonopolet, an alcoholic beverage retailer in Norway, exposed numerous grape plantations in South Africa where farmers were working under unethical conditions. These conditions include the following:

  • Facilities that lacking regular health and safety checks
  • Employees experiencing verbal harassment and physical harassment
  • Facilities not issuing employees with employment contracts
  • Employees being paid below minimum wage
  • Employers prohibiting employees from joining trade unions
  • Exposing workers to dangerous pesticides
  • Scheduling workers for 12-hour days with no overtime payment

While it is common for reporters to label these unfair labor tactics in the grape industry as “modern-day slavery,” many people do not ask why these exploitative practices from the past still exist. Seeking to start that conversation, the District Six Museum was founded.

Changing the Grape Industry

Built in 2017 in the South African city Cape Town, the District Six Museum’s goals are threefold:

  1. In order to understand how exploitation in the wine industry perpetuates itself, one must have knowledge of what came before.
  2. The first step to challenging the unfair labor tactics in the grape industry is to have conversations about the intergenerational trauma ingrained within this ongoing exploitation.
  3. Colonial-era methods and mentalities continue to influence current labor practices.

As tourism expands in South Africa, so does the wine industry. It is common for tourists to take advantage of the delicious wines during their stay. However, as the District Six Museum notes, the majority of tourists are clueless when it comes to both contemporary and historical unfair labor tactics in the grape industry. Through advocacy and bringing about awareness, the District Six Museum is working to change that.

Being fully aware of what the District Six Museum exposes, Fairtrade Africa, a nonprofit organization that represents all Fairtrade-certified products in Africa, is working to end the unfair labor tactics in the grape industry. Established in 2005, this nonprofit fights for the rights of all African harvesters — whether they be in the grape industry or not.

Through advocacy and various projects, Fairtrade Africa had many successes in their effort to combat the unfair labor tactics in the grape industry. For example, Fransmanskraal, a farm on the South African Western Cape province that supplies grapes to Place in the Sun Wines, was able to use the premiums they received from Fairtrade Africa to improve the quality of their educational and recreational facilities. These premiums, which are not aid but are generated from business transactions, gave school-aged children the opportunity to attend school in their hometown, to participate in local sports matches and to improve nutrition by building vegetable gardens. The premium even helped one woman named Alvercia Juries attend and graduate from the University of Western Cape, making her the first college graduate in the Fransmanskraal community.

Another project Fairtrade Africa took on in the grape industry was reducing the use of coal to generate electricity in the Stellar Organics wine cellars. Western Cape, where Stellar Organics is located, can get very hot during the summer months. That is not good because wine needs to be kept at a certain temperature in order to be made just right. This is why Fairtrade Africa helped improve the insulation of Stellar Organics’ wine cellars, so they wouldn’t have to use so much coal to keep their wines at the right temperature. Ultimately, this allowed them to save electrical costs, be more environmentally sustainable and enhance the quality of their fair-trade products.

Fairtrade Africa encourages advocacy aimed at ending unfair labor tactics in the grape industry and is always accepting donations.

– Emily Turner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Fair Trade TourismSouth Africa is home to sprawling plains with amazing wildlife, stunning mountain ranges and crystal blue coastlines. It is no wonder that it remains a supreme vacation destination for many people around the world. Despite its physical beauty, the country continues to struggle with high crime and violence rates due to large poverty gaps. The Fair Trade Tourism industry in South Africa is helping boost the country’s overall economy. Visitors help boost the country’s GDP when they choose to invest in travel experiences and accommodations that respect Fair Trade Tourism practices.

Fair Trade Tourism

Fair Trade Tourism is a non-profit organization that promotes responsible tourism in Africa through sustainability. They currently certify fair trade products and companies in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar in the Southern Africa region. Additionally, these countries have recognized agreements with other partner programs across the rest of the continent.

This non-profit works to help travelers in Africa seek out meaningful and authentic experiences and products that maintain high standards. Standards must include “fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.” In order to meet these standards, the organization has put in place six pillars for guidance with their own unique subcategories.

Pillars of Fair Trade

  1. Fair share: For tourism to be “fair share,” all participants in an activity, both the locals and the natives, should get a fair and direct cut of the income based on their unique level of contribution to it.
  2. Fair say: All parties involved in tourism should be able to voice their concerns and make decisions based on their values. These values should never be invalidated.
  3. Respect: Both those that host and those that participate should make sure they are respecting “human rights, culture and environment.” They can do this by choosing companies that enforce safe working conditions, protect young workers, promote gender equality, understand socio-cultural norms, reduce water and energy consumption as well as recycle, conserve natural habitats and their biodiversity and bring awareness to HIV/AIDS research.
  4. Reliability: Reliability is met via basic safety and security measures protecting all parties involved.
  5. Transparency: Tourism companies should make clear who owns a business, who shares the profits and where the money raised goes as well as be willing to answer any questions openly and honestly that tourists might have about the company’s missions, practices and values.
  6. Sustainability: Companies should seek sustainability via open-mindedness to increased knowledge, continuous improvements to resources via networking and relationship building, responsible use of resources for economic and environmental safety and support to marginalized groups.

The Importance of Fair Trade Tourism

Seeking out experiences that value these standards helps South Africa on the micro and macro level. On the micro level, it helps individual people working in the tourism industry to gain access to better benefits and working practices, improving their quality of life.

On the macro level, investing in these practices will have an overall better impact on the environment and the culture while simultaneously boosting South Africa’s global economy. The more money earned from the tourism industry, the more it will continue to improve in both environmentally and people friendly ways. This creates a virtuous cycle moving forward.

For South Africans, tourism remains one of the top industries for the economy. The Western Cape, where the bustling city of Cape Town is located, is South Africa’s most developed tourism region. It has grown faster than other areas and has created more jobs than any other industry in the province.

The National Development Plan names tourism as one of the top creators of employment and economic growth. Tourism, directly and indirectly, supported about 1.5 million jobs in South Africa in 2017. If the industry continues to grow at the pace it has been, it has the potential to create a real economic and social transformation for South Africans.

How People Can Help

There are several Fair Trade Tourism partners that tourists can seek out if planning a trip to South Africa or the Southern African region. Potential tourists should make sure they are checking any booked accommodations or experiences to ensure they are practicing Fair Trade. It is an easy solution to the problem of exploitation in the tourism industry. It makes for a better experience for both the locals benefitting from tourism as well as for the visitors themselves.

Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr