5 Fair Trade Myths - Debunked

5 Fair Trade Myths - Debunked

Fair Trade Myths Debunked

1. Fair Trade is charity.

Often times at trunk shows I get asked what percentage of the sales is donated back to the artisan groups. I used to feel a bit guilty that my answer is 0%. Now this has become a point of pride.

You see, with the majority of our artisan groups, we pre-pay for the materials & their labor. We work with organizations who will often times build into the cost a percentage for them to use towards the specific needs of the men & women. Needs that they know intimately & can be responsible with how the funds are allocated within the community so that we can be sure that we are actually helping & not harming the people we seek to serve.

We don't believe that the way to solve the problem of poverty is money, but a opportunity at a long term, dignified job within a healthy community framework.

Ethically Made

2. Companies that "Give Back" make sure their products are made ethically.

Nope.

While I'm all about companies that donate based on purchases (depending on how it's done), I would rather focus on the heart of the issue & make sure that men & women aren't exploited in the process. I'm perfectly comfortable making the decision to donate to the organizations I care about without the motivation of getting a product in return.

Basically, I don't need a company to be in charge of my donations or to make me feel good about a purchase. 

I'm a big fan of these two organizations I've work with in the past: Manos Extendidas & Bolivia's Best Coffee

My Style Fair Trade

3. There are no Fair Trade products available that fit your signature style. 

I'll be the first to admit that I believed this myth for quite some time & until the last few years, this has been true. Personally, I like to wear solid colors mixed together in interesting ways or one subdued pattern in a neutral color paired with a small pop of color. I like classic silhouettes & well tailored pieces.

I'm pretty sure that whatever your style, you can now find a Fair Trade version. Feel free to test me on this - mention in the comments your style & I'll point you to some pretty solid companies to check out!

4. Fair Trade is always more expensive. 

If you're comparing Fair Trade to Forever 21 or Target, then maybe this isn't a myth. But if you're comparing the quality you get with handmade, organic products then Fair Trade is often considerably less expensive because by definition, Fair Trade products cut out the middlemen in the production line.

Although this infographic from Ojos Pesados is about coffee farmers, I like the visualization of the cost break down. 

Hand crocheted raffia and dip dyed cotton

5. The only thing different about Fair Trade products is how they are made. 

A huge part of the Fair Trade movement is the process of how those who are making the products are treated. But did you know that most Fair Trade products are also made from natural fibers & materials with organic dyes? Many groups will use as many recycled materials as possible. This not only lowers the cost but also lowers the environmental impact of their wares. 

What Fair Trade questions do you have that you'd like to set straight? Let's keep the conversation going in the comments below. 
July 15, 2014 by Jen Lewis
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