Wales, the world’s first Fair Trade Nation?
When you’re closely involved with something every day it can be hard to step back and see it from a new perspective. We have lots of customers who know all about fair trade and are passionate ethical consumers (and encouragingly, lots of children are well versed on the importance of fair trade). However, we do get one or two who are unfamiliar with the term. It can be very rewarding to explain why it’s important to pay people a fair wage for their work; ensure they are working in a safe environment; avoid child labour; and enable producers to invest in the future of their business – and see that you have potentially changed the way someone will think about their shopping habits.
We have a flyer on our counter from Fairtrade Wales. ‘Wales, the world’s first Fair Trade Nation!’ it claims, and the small print explains how businesses, local authorities, schools, faith groups and individuals all use, buy and support fair trade. A seemingly well-informed customer noticed the flyer and explained what it meant to his partner: “isn’t it great, Wales is committed to fair trade? That means all workers in Wales are paid a fair wage and work in safe conditions.” This is actually a common mistake, often people who seem to understand fair trade, ask if any of our products are made locally in Wales. Of course, Wales is part of the EU and has a whole set of regulations that ensure minimum wages, health and safety at work etc so fair trade is a given. Our working lives are so different from those in developing countries who are often exploited by the demands of the West.
Fair trade is also often wrapped up in conversations about sustainability, incorporating social justice and environmental issues. Of course it’s an important part of the mix, but it does need to be understood as a stand along concept that can’t be diluted or diffused with environmental considerations.
Perhaps fair trade needs to get back to basics with its messaging. It’s a simple idea – pay a fair wage, keep people safe, invest in the future.