Rewards of fair trade

by Diana Crane, PCC Community Relations Manager

This article was originally published in October 2006

(October 2006) — The average person’s wallet carries sufficient proof that we’re a reward-driven society. From frequent flyer cards to coffee cards, we like to feel we’re spending our dollars responsibly and being rewarded for our efforts. We can feel just as good — even better — by deciding to purchase fairly traded products. We reward not only ourselves, we also directly support an economic system that benefits all involved.

October is Fair Trade month and retailers, restaurants and media across the nation are spreading the word about the fair trade movement. It may seem like a lot of hype, but the simple concept of paying small farmers fair prices for their products is worth the attention.

For these farmers, the retailers who sell their products, and the consumers who buy them, the fair trade movement is all about rewards and the social and environmental benefits that truly are of global proportions.

For small farmers in developing countries, fair trade means direct market access and fair prices and wages. There’s more money to invest in their communities, making it possible for children to attend school, roads to be repaired, and clean water systems to be built.

Fair trade also means that agricultural shortcuts employed by large mono-crop producers are replaced by eco-friendly growing practices that support biodiversity, preservation of wildlife habitats, and higher quality products.

For poor producers, fair trade’s greatest rewards beyond the extra money are pride and hope. Two PCC staffers, Roxanne Winship and I, witnessed this last March during a weeklong trip to small farmer cooperatives in Costa Rica.

“Seeing and hearing, first-hand, the positive changes the fair trade movement is bringing to their lives was an unforgettable and empowering experience,” says Roxanne. “Once you realize the direct impact that fair trade is making on the lives of our global neighbors, the decision to buy fairly traded products is an easy one to make.”

Retailers such as PCC Natural Markets benefit from fair trade, too. The system relies on certification requirements that assure product sourcing and quality. When PCC merchandisers buy fairly traded products certified by organizations such as TransFairUSA, or from vendors who have their own fair labor programs, such as Rapunzel and Organics Limited, they can have confidence in what they offer to PCC shoppers.

For socially responsible retailers such as PCC, selling fairly traded products offers another reward. PCC’s grocery merchandiser, Stephanie Steiner, says, “Fair trade coffee is a way for us to do the right thing, not just talk about it.” Steiner was the person behind PCC’s decision to sell only 100 percent Certified Fair Trade, shade-grown and organic coffee.

Consumers who intentionally seek out and buy fairly traded products understand the rewards of their actions, too. Product quality is assured, but beyond that they know they’re using their buying power to promote positive change in the world with every dollar they spend on fairly traded products. They realize that fair trade isn’t charity but an effective way to empower small farmers to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty, while preserving their ecosystems for future generations.

PCC sells a variety of fairly traded products, many of which are on sale this month and featured in the advertising flyer inserted in this publication. Along with staples such as bananas, rice, cocoa and sugar, there’s a lot of decadent chocolate, rich coffee and comforting tea to choose from. So reward yourself — by supporting fair trade.

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