The True Cost Of Fair Trade Goods

Fair trade efforts haven't always been successful.
Posted at 10:47 AM, May 05, 2022

From sugar to gold, fair trade products range far and wide, impacting industries around the world.  

But what exactly is fair trade? 

The concept, popularized in the 1980s, was created to ensure safe working conditions and fair pay, especially as globalization took off and opened the door to outsourced labor. 

Work laws and regulations vary by country,which can make it difficult for a business to guarantee their international partners are treating employees fairly, especially when it comes to wages. Fair trade certification fixes that issue, by establishing a minimum price. And once the products hit the market, they’re marked with fair trade labels for conscious consumers.  

But the intention behind the effort hasn’t always been successful.  

Small-scale farmers may benefit from fair trade certification, but not the other workers on their farms, according to a study in Nature Sustainability. 

And, like everything else in the world – the COVID-19 pandemic upended the fair trade market. In fact, 66 percent of producers saw demand drop as a result. One expert says that change could be permanent. 

And with that tighter control could come a higher operating cost, as workers in the U.S. demand better pay and benefits in the ultra-competitive, post-pandemic labor market.