"Fair trade evokes a relationship between consumers and producers based on transparency, dialogue and respect" ~ Bryant Terry
Last week when I put up a Q&A box on Instagram I got an interesting question that developed into a really good discussion - so I thought I would unpack it a little and go through some of our brand values in more detail.
The question I was asked was why we only source fair trade products made overseas and don't stock New Zealand made products (as these would surely fall under fair trade/ethical work standards).
At Fairplay we have five main values that we consider when choosing suppliers. You may have noticed we don't stock ethically made European brands either - and it's for a similar reason. These brands have opportunities and access to a multitude of trade markets around the world, and there are many beautiful stores both in New Zealand and overseas that already sell their products.
Our goal has always been to support small scale artisans - we source largely from collectives that give people an opportunity to connect to markets that they wouldn't otherwise have. And here's why -
THE FAIR TRADE PREMIUM
A simple definition of fair trade is when producers in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work, by companies in developed countries. It means that the price we pay for products is enough for producers to afford life's essentials. But it also pays a premium on top, to give back to community projects, education and healthcare. While not all of our brands are fair trade certified (this can be expensive for very small organisations) they all uphold similar principles, have transparency and accountability, and offer working conditions and benefits equivalent to those that are.
FAIR TRADE HELPS COMMUNITIES THRIVE
Fair trade collectives offer work to artisans in their own homes and communities - people who may live rurally or in small towns or villages where there is little opportunity for work. The collectives then connect the finished products to wider trade markets all over the world. Without these jobs and connections, people may have to move to larger towns and cities - which results in broken families and an inability for communities to live and thrive independently.
DIGNITY AND FREEDOM
Fair trade is a hand up, NOT a hand out or charity. It offers people the opportunity for fair and safe employment - to earn their own way, just like we do here in New Zealand. The ten principles of fair trade offer many protections for workers - from unsafe conditions and forced overtime, to protection from discrimination and strict rules around child labour. It gives workers access to trade unions. It even has provisions for training and the development of business and leadership skills, which fosters independence for the producers. It is empowering - and so much more than just fair wages.
PRESERVATION OF TRADITIONAL SKILLS
Choosing artisan-made means one of a kind pieces produced by skilled artists and craftspeople - often using techniques passed down through generations. Like a family heirloom, handicraft techniques are part of an artisan’s inheritance. For some it can be a symbol of tribal identity and a way to honour their heritage. They are able to pass those skills to the next generation and continue telling their stories.
ONE OF A KIND
This also keeps our product range somewhat unique! The handcrafted nature of our toys and decor means no two are exactly the same, and you won't find them in many other places. Some of our pieces you won't find anywhere else in New Zealand - this is something we are really proud of and a point of difference that we will try to continue as we grow.
Sadly, greenwashing is prevalent throughout many industries and we can't always be sure that an 'ethical' company is what they say they are. So what can we do about this?
You, as the consumer, have a lot of power here. Ask companies and brands questions. If they have nothing to hide they should be able to freely answer them. Two simple ones I usually start with are: "are your workers paid a living wage" and "do they have access to trade unions". The response you get from these two questions alone (if you do get one - I don't always!) will tell you a lot about a company and how transparent they wish to be.
The devastating Rana Plaza tragedy is an example where workers did not have these two basic rights in place. Despite cracks being identified the day before the collapse, workers were threatened with a loss of their monthly pay if they did not return to the factory floors. Without any form of union representation they had no way to stand up for themselves.
It is sad to see that 8 years on, there are still big brands and companies allowing this practice to continue and hiding behind "protecting their commercial interests" as a reason not to be open and transparent.
WHO MADE OUR PRODUCTS
In a world where greenwashing is rife, I consider it important that you can know and trust that the products we are bringing you are safe for your family, and not made at the expense of people or our planet. Encouraged and inspired by other ethical brands who are transparent about their producers - we also share the details about who makes our toys and decor.
If you have a few minutes, take a look at our artisan page - read their stories and see how fair employment is helping improve their livelihoods. And if you ever have any questions about anything we do here at Fairplay - feel free to get in touch! ♡
Thanks so much for reading!