Major Benefit of Fair Trade? Environmental Protection.

Fair Trade is commonly associated with safe working conditions, better labor practices, and fair prices for farmers. An overlooked benefit of Fair Trade, however, is protection of the environment. Usually farmers are forced to practice cheap agricultural processes if they are struggling to profit or subsist off of their land. Under Fair Trade, farmers have the ability to implement sustainable processes while also improving their living and working conditions.

Fair Trade Certification Organizations:

A plethora of Fair Trade certifications and labels exist in the world. There are five domestic commonly recognized organizations: Fair Trade International, Fair Trade U.S.A., Fair for Life, the World Fair Trade Organization, and the Fair Trade Federation. Differences include certifications vs. membership groups, products that are grown vs. made in a factory, and certification bodies themselves. This article will focus on Fair Trade U.S.A. Despite the large number of organizations and their differences, they all have similar missions: to promote fair trading conditions and empower producers.

Strict Environmental Standards:

In order to be certified Fair Trade under Fair Trade U.S.A., U.S. farmers must meet strict environmental standards. Below are a few examples:

  • Farmers are prohibited from using GMOs
  • Farmers must enrich soil by using sustainable irrigation (i.e. crop rotation)
  • Farmers must obtain their water in a sustainable manner and reduce their usage over time
  • Farmers must manage their waste in order to minimize pollution
  • Farmers must minimize the use of agrochemicals
  • Farmers must report their methods of carbon emission reductions

Organic Certifications:

A farm can also obtain organic certifications. Organic certification is not required for a product to be certified as Fair Trade, but the Fair Trade U.S.A. Certification does offer support for organic farming. It provides an incentive for higher prices for organic produce and provides training for organic farmers.

Around the world, 62% of all Fair Trade U.S.A.-certified producers also have organic certifications. Organic certifications promote healthier produce for the consumer, healthier environments for the farmers, and healthier conditions for ecosystems.

Quality Products:

Fair Trade standards increase the quality of the end products by incorporating a premium for community investment. According to Fair Trade USA, this premium allows producers to spend money on “environmental education, training, quality testing, and equipment efficiency”. This promotes sustainable agriculture processes.

Urgent Action:

World-wide agricultural practices require urgent action in terms of sustainability. Fair Trade holds an important position in the rapidly-changing landscape. Particularly, it could have a major impact in emerging markets with the implementation of sustainability standards. Fair Trade and other sustainability standards have been increasing their scale, but they continue to only be a small portion of many producers’ incomes.

The question remains: Will there be more synergies and a more significant impact if Fair Trade continues to expand?

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