Are Fair Trade Products Worth it?


In times of economic difficulty, when money is tighter than usual, we always look for a good deal, whether it’s for our home and car insurance, if it’s the best interest rate on a savings account or if it’s for a good deal on food and beverages.

But how do we balance getting a good deal with the idea of fair trade? Are fair trade products worth it?

Let’s be honest, fair trade products don’t usually come in the 2-for-1 section and perhaps we have become a little bit too aware of ourselves, perhaps we wait to pick the fair trade products off the shelf when no one else is looking in case they perceive us to be too hippyish.

Yet fair trade is a fair deal. We must learn to look beyond the continuous deal-saving adverts thrown at us from every angle from so many aspects of our lives. We must stop believing the hype. Fair trade is more than helping a poverty-stricken family from the other side of the world, whose language and culture we don’t understand. It’s more than doing a bit of good so that we can go home to our excessively materialistic lives feeling like we’ve contributed to the advancement of mankind. It’s more than caving in to the charities and the do-gooders.

It is, simply put, the right thing to do.

Martin Luther King Jr once said: “by the time we finished eating breakfast, we relied on half the world”. The problem is that half the time, we are too busy getting to work or the kid to school, to notice these things.

Without the “other half”, we wouldn’t be where we are now, we would be unable to do the things that we do, even the things we consider a time-out, like computer games or a board game, these are all put together by the other half. And we exploit the other half, most of the time not even intentionally or consciously. We go to stores and complain that the T-shirt or jacket we want is just that little bit beyond our price range.

Sometimes we go so far as to think that the companies are being greedy and ripping us off. After all, isn’t some kid on the other side of the world making this item of clothing for a few pennies? Well, we’re right. An unknown number of children get up before dawn, walk miles along dangerous roads, to be herded into large buildings and put to work in horrendous conditions for very little money. They don’t get an education, play sports or get the chance to build a life for themselves that they deserve.

So Fair Trade products are a way of ensuring that a better amount of money goes to the workers, that the conditions they work in aren’t as awful and risky as they are used to and most importantly, it’s a step in the right direction in terms of reducing the exploitation of the people on the other side of the world.

After all, they create a vast majority of things in our lives that we take for granted. So maybe, in times of our economic difficulties, we should remember that our lot in life is rarely as hard as the other half.

About the Author Gunnar Eigener

Leave a Comment:

Carl Frederik Kontny says May 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Eigener,
well written. I would, however, be interested in your thoughts on whether the extra revenue created by selling fair trade products actually finds its way to improving worker conditions in the countries where the items are produced?

Elsdon Ward says March 12, 2018

It may be true that fair trade products in principle have the intention of improving the lot of workers in the other half of the world. My question is – who determines which half of the world people live in? Or is it more truthful to say that the other half of the world is a concept to make ourselves feel better. Ask your self if we are so much better off – why are our people working in zero hour contracts. Why are so many people working for the minimum wage. And why is there just no affordable housing available. My conclusion is that we can also be counted as being inhabitants of the other half of the world. And fearfully, if our present is so dismal, heaven forbid what it is like for all of those poor unfortunates producing products for the first half of the world.

So consider should the world consist of a better half and another half. Surely this in itself is a measure of our inequality, the reality being that we cannot have everything that we want because it is already the domain of the few. How can we be sure that when we purchase fair trade products – they are not just another illusion to make you feel superior, a trick to make you feel better – a scam which hides a murky world of injustice in another part of the world. I mean – what do we produce and then send off for the other half to benefit from?

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