By: Annie Dubois
As American consumers, we rarely consider where our products come from. Being a part of a Western society means that we usually get most of our food, clothing, and other everyday items at a chain store where we purchase those goods and never think about that transaction again. It’s easy, really, to forget about the process of getting a good or service into the hands of the consumer. More so, it can be even harder to recognize that these products usually aren’t priced to account for full cost pricing. Full cost pricing includes not just external costs, like the creation and transportation of a good, but internal costs, like the wage of the workers who produce it. This is where Fair Trade comes to play its part.
Fair Trade is a movement to improve the quality of international trades by creating ethical practices for workers through actions like increased wages and improved working conditions. Fair Trade positively impacts the producer of a good or service both socially and economically by developing more sustainable trade interactions in the long run. I recently met up with MSU’s own Fair Trade organization to discuss the Fair Trade Campaigns conference they attended, Fair Trade practices and the future of the movement.
At the conference, the MSU Fair Trade organization was able to discuss with other organizations and leaders of the movement the growth of Fair Trade in the United States. As a growing trade revolution, the Fair Trade movement allows consumers to get behind it because they are able to play a direct role in the transaction. The group members explained to me that even just the label of “Fair Trade” on a product increases consumption of the good and allows an opportunity for consumers to think about what exactly they’re buying and the labors that go into production.
Fair Trade goes beyond the food in a grocery store or clothes at a mall. Recently, in my Global Sustainability class, we discussed how rose farmers in third-world countries work to produce the roses sold in countries like the U.S. and aren’t paid nearly enough money for their labor. My professor recounted his experience visiting a rose farm where there was a row of roses, grown similarly to the rest, that was labeled Fair Trade. The workers that tended to that particular row were paid a higher wage than the non-Fair Trade workers. For me, this gave a glimpse of the promising future of Fair Trade. The more Fair Trade products that are on our shelves and consumed, the more we can consciously think about the producers of these goods and properly account for their labor in the way we price products here in the United States.
Despite their accomplishments so far, the Fair Trade organization at MSU still has some work to do. The group members explained to me that their list of goals here at MSU for Fair Trade is still lengthy. Group member Paige Ostrowski said that the group plans to have more educational outreach on Fair Trade practices. Along with this, they hope to grow the group and get more Fair Trade products into MSU. Lastly, a long term goal of the Fair Trade group is to get MSU Fair Trade certified. Although this is a time-consuming process that requires adequate support and foundation, the MSU Fair Trade Organization is off to an impressive start on their mission here at MSU.
(Left to right) Abby Pointer, Kathryn Beauchamp, Taylor Burton, Paige Ostrowski