08 Dec Fairtrade – its not perfect
We have a confession. Fairtrade isn’t perfect. There, we said it.
Obviously we know that you know this already, but as an organization that touts itself as Fairtrade, we wanted to admit that we know it too. We aren’t going to sit here and lie to your face (well lie to your face via whatever screen you’re reading this on). Sometimes Fairtrade struggles to meet its own high ethical and sustainable standards. From paying farmers and producers above market rate, to ensuring all practices are environmentally sustainable, to paying the Fairtrade premium, to refunding a percentage of turnover to promote Fairtrade indicatives, there a huge number of steps in the chain where Fairtrade can – and sometimes does – fall short of its own ideals.
Why? Because for the most part, everyone in the industry is trying to get it right; trying really, really hard to get it right. Think trying to swipe your metro card while juggling your cup of coffee and getting through those turnstiles without spilling anything on your culottes type of trying hard. Yep you got it.
Like the Fairtrade industry as a whole, we know we don’t get it right 100% of the time as well. But we are working towards it in a responsible, optimistic, and human human-centered way. Putting people at the heart of all we do was our vision when we founded FAIR. in 2009, which just happens to be the same principle at the heart of Fairtrade. Funny that.
Fairtrade is about taking risks. Everyone, from the grower to the consumer, needs to take and share risks if they are to share the benefits. Take our FAIR. Vodka. Don’t think it wasn’t a risk for the 1,200 small independent farmers of the Altiplano to take a chance on us way back in 2009 It was. They didn’t know us, and didn’t know what to expect when they agreed to work with us. Same story with the master distillers and brewers in the Cognac region. These heirs of long distilling lines might as well have laughed at us the first time we came to them with our idea for Fairtrade vodka. Vodka that was distilled from beer, that was brewed from quinoa, which came from Bolivia. (OK they did laugh at us the first time. And the second. But on the third time they began to see we were serious.) The final risk taker in Fairtrade is you. You’re taking a risk on a new product, taking a risk by paying a tiny bit more than you normally would (just think of it as a couple less bacon, egg, and cheese bagels this week) in the hopes that the product you’re buying not only tastes great but does actually benefit the growers at the start of this story. Don’t worry, it does.
But by taking these risks together, we’ve developed the first Fairtrade certified vodka. Not just our first Fairtrade certified vodka. The first Fairtrade certified vodka. And that’s nothing to be sneezed at. Which is a bit of a weird phrase now that we think about it.
We think Fairtrade is about trust, loyalty, and a search for meaning. Which is why we travel to the most far-flung places for the very best Fairtrade ingredients, and why we meet our producers on their own land, and why we pay more than market price for the raw ingredients.
So, yeah, Fairtrade isn’t perfect, but it is a start. When it boils down to it, the true value of choosing Fairtrade is choosing people, their ideas, and their results. That doesn’t change whether the idea of Fairtrade is on its way to being flawless, already there, or may never get there. It doesn’t matter to us; what matters is that we continue our departure from the norm in a largely traditional industry. We’ll continue to treat every person involved in the process in a fair and equitable way because that’s how Fairtrade works its way closer to being perfect. At the very least, it’s a move in the right direction.