Shopping Fair: Philanthropy made easy
The revolution that is sweeping the food industry is expanding to retail: origins matter. With fair-trade foods now a standard option on our grocery shelves, consumers are now becoming concerned with working conditions, environmental issues, and outsourcing of their clothing and accessory choices. Retailers are doing what was once unthinkable: revealing and even advertising information on exactly how and where their products were made.
Fair trade breaks the barrier between worker, buyer, and consumer. According to the New York Times, “New research indicates a growing consumer demand for information about how and where goods are produced. A study last year by professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard showed that some consumers — even those who were focused on discount prices — were not only willing to pay more, but actually did pay more, for clothes that carried signs about fair-labor practices”(Clifford, 2013). As consumers, we have the right to choose what products we purchase and what companies we support with our dollars. Companies are responding to this demand by turning to products that are made in fair working conditions, increasing the accountability between buyer and consumer. Consumers want to know if a company is outsourcing their labor to Thailand and paying their workers pennies a day, working long hours, in less than human conditions. Fair trade ensures that these conditions for laborers never happen and that the wages they are paid are comparable to the work they do.
For me, fair trade is “shopping for a cause.” I like to know that what I am buying not only benefits me and satisfies my needs, but in turn, helps that individual or community that produced the specific good. Because of fair trade certified goods, I know that what I am purchasing has a meaning. Shopping fair trade is an easy way to impact a community without actually visiting there. You can buy produce and all sorts of groceries, clothing, accessories, and jewelry that are all fair trade certified! Gift giving is fun when you are giving something fair trade because you can tell the person exactly where their gift came from, who made it, how it was made, and how it impacts the person or community that made it!
“In the clothing industry, everybody wears [clothes] every day, but we have no idea where [they] come from,” said Michael Preysman, chief executive and founder of Everlane, a fair trade online boutique stated. “People are starting to slowly clue in to this notion of where products are made.” More so, major retailers and apparel companies, including Nike and Walmart (both with a history of controversial manufacturing practices overseas) say they are developing an index that will include labor, social and environmental measures in the future. As to whether these companies will respond promptly and responsibly to the demand of fair labor remains unknown. However, purchasing products that are fair trade certified will eventually catch the attention of all major retailers that consumers want their products made fairly. Many single purchases put together can start this revolution of fair trade, it all starts with you!
The Village Experience recently returned from Guatemala with Author, Kelsey Timmerman and a group of students from Winthrop University. Kelsey has written two books, titled “Where Am I Eating?” and “Where Am I Wearing?” (www.whereamiwearing.com). These books speak to the importance of understanding the back story of the everyday items you spend your money on.
-April Hubert is a senior at IUPUI pursuing her BA in Philanthropic Studies through the Indiana University Lily Family School of Philanthropy. She is working as a summer intern for The Village Experience. April also works full time for a non-profit Medicaid company in Indianapolis and enjoys spending her free time on the golf course, reading, or traveling with her loved ones.