The authors of the article “Why does not everybody purchase fair trade products? The question of the fairness of consuming fair trade products for consumers”, published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies, are convinced that the reluctance of many consumers to purchase products labeled FAIRTRADE can be explained mainly by a low level of public awareness.
The same thing – the level of knowledge, along with the moral principles and self-identification of the particular person – are among the basic factors in the analytical model (the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)) which was used by the authors of the article Ethical food choices: Examining people’s Fair Trade purchasing decisions for the FAIRTRADE products consumer behavior study.
«Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers» – says the definition on the website.
Imagine that you are buying bananas that were grown on the plantation of a huge corporation, solely for sale. Or another scenario: you buy them from a resident of Ecuador, who all of his life has grown and harvested bananas, but until that moment he did not get a penny from doing it. The goal of fair trade is not to offend anyone: consumers get a really high quality local product at a reasonable price, while producers get decent working conditions and appropriate payment for their products. This slowly but surely improves the living conditions of the indigenous populations of developing countries, since the listed trade products include the bananas mentioned above, as well as coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, nuts, honey, rice, cane sugar, etc.
Fair Trade began to tell its story after the Second World War, when the British humanitarian organization Oxfam began importing products made under the aegis of humanitarian projects to develop lagging countries. The first fair trade store opened in the Netherlands in 1959.
After a while, the question arose about how to confirm the authenticity of the origin of a particular product. The first organization to assume responsibility for the certification of products coming from developing countries began its activities in the same place in the Netherlands in 1988. Since 1997, these issues have been dealt with by the international certification organization known as FLO (Fairtrade Labeling Organization International), which is headquartered in Bonn, Germany. The philosophy of fair trade involves guaranteeing a minimum purchase price for a product, agreed in advance and legally confirmed, and «humane» working conditions. Particular attention is paid to whether child labor was used in production, the situation of women workers, whether persons with disabilities have participated in the process, etc.
According to the World Fair Trade Organization, there are currently 1,210 certified manufacturing organizations in 74 countries that provide jobs to more than 1.5 million farmers. In 2013, sales of fair trade products amounted to about 5.5 billion euro worldwide.
Unfortunately, growth in popularity or the number of zeros in the bank account are factors that do not always move forward without fraud. Since the moment when products with fair trade marking began to be sold everywhere, including large network supermarkets, questions about the prices for the products began to arise more and more. The average price of a bunch of bananas or a box of coffee with the corresponding label may be slightly higher than usual, but it cannot be justified to a factor of two or three times. The approximate price limits for fair trade products, which are valid for all countries, can be found here. «If we seek out always the lowest prices, we should be aware that someone else, or the environment, is likely to suffer as a result. With huge rewards going to company chief executives whilst actual workers are paid a pittance, it is also right to consider the culture of the companies from whom we buy, and to ask probing questions of suppliers, whoever they are», – says Roy Scott, founder of the charitable organization One Village and an Oxfam ex-employee. Thus, before spending money with a clear conscience, believing that the money will go for a good deed, it is better to make sure beforehand that you do not take money from your pocket to feed the numerous businessmen who stand in the chain of supply between the banana farmer and you, the buyer. Based on price issues, many researchers argue that fair trade is just a beautiful cover, but not an actual solution to the real problem of the standard of living of people in developing countries. «In our research sites, Fairtrade has not been an effective mechanism for improving the lives of wage workers, the poorest rural people» – these the words of Christopher Cramer, an economics professor at SOAS, University of London, and one of the report’s authors to The Guardian, cites Aguanomics.
The Czech Republic, albeit not so long ago, also took its place in the list of countries supporting the fair trade concept, and in many respects it has already outstripped its colleagues. Its activities are carried out under the protection and control of Fairtrade Česko a Slovensko, a subsidiary of Fairtrade International. On its site you can find a map for consumers, where all the shops that offer fair trade products at «right» prices are indicated. The project Fairtradová města (Fairtrade city, that is, the city that lives according to the principles of fair trade, endorsed at the official level) is gaining momentum. At the moment, there are cities like Litoměřice, Mladá Boleslav, Český Krumlov, Kroměříž, Prague (Prague 8), and others on the list. For the seventh time, a Fairtrade Breakfast has been organized (free translation of the name of the project Férová snídaně): a morning picnic in the outdoors with like-minded people, where everyone comes only with fair trade products. Last year, more than 6,500 people took part in it, according to the organizers. Who knows what the figure will be in the coming year, and most importantly, how many people on the other side of the world will become a little happier after it happens…