The truth behind fair trade
It may be hard to imagine that a purchase made locally could have a huge impact on someone half a world away, but when consumers shop in one of many fair-trade certified businesses in Winter Park, they are doing just that.
In Pakistan, villagers are applying ancient traditions to create hand-knotted rugs that are sold through Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit retail store selling handmade crafts from artisans around the world.
The Pakistani group, the Bunyaad Rug Room, have used their success to build new schools in their community that Muslim and Christian children attend together. These schools also open doors for girls who had previously been unable to attend school.
In Egypt, young craftspeople, especially women, are finding new paths to economic freedom through fair-trade projects.
Dr. Mary Conway Dato-on, associate professor of International Business at Rollins College's Crummer Graduate School of Business and board member for Ten Thousand Villages, recalled one young woman from Egypt that she met at a recent fair trade conference.
“She said that she had been a participant in the Arab Spring and was eager to see such economic opportunities grow because, as she told me ‘Without economic freedom, there could be no political freedom.’”
The city of Winter Park takes its fair trade policy seriously, having resolved to become a fair trade town back in 2012.
According to FairTradeCampaigns.org the criteria to become a fair trade town for municipalities of up to 100,000 residents are to have at least one fair trade location for every 5,000 residents.
Winter Park is the only Florida city to qualify as listed on their website.
Rollins College is designated as a fair trade campus, meaning that the school is not only dedicated to offering fair trade goods for sale, but also to teaching their students sound fair trade principles as part of their curriculum.
Dr. Conway Dato-on sees this as a trend that is poised to see a lot of growth in the United States.
“I am happy to say that the availability and awareness of fair trade goods are increasing in America. We are a little behind Europe in that sense, but increasing,” she said.
Fair trade certification, she said, represents a business relationship based on respect and human dignity. It means that the goods producers are working in safe, humane conditions, receive livable wages and that the skills and crafts of indigenous populations are respected and showcased.
In order to receive a fair trade certification, the production facility and surrounding areas must be inspected in person and workers interviewed to ensure that all standards are met.
Conway Dato-on said there are many misconceptions out there about what fair trade is and how it works.
“Many people believe fair trade goods are more expensive and that is just not so,” she said. “The pricing is incredibly competitive, for example, Ten Thousand Villages take a smaller percentage in order to bring these goods to the public at great prices.”
She said that due to the costs involved, many retailers question whether fair trade certification is even necessary.
“It is, because the more retailers become certified, the more economical certification will become,” she said. “It is also of great importance to the producers because it offers a distinction that sets them apart.”
“I would urge shoppers to vote with their wallets, think about each purchase and its potential global effect.”
Fair trade retailers in Winter Park include: Chamberlin’s in the Winter Park Village; Austin’s Coffee on Fairbanks Avenue; Eat More Produce on Orlando Avenue; Ten Thousand Villages and Smart Coffee HD on Park Avenue; the Cornell Fine Arts Museum gift shop on Rollins campus; and Whole Foods on Aloma Avenue.