Fair Trade vs. Charity


When I tell folks I have a business specializing in Fair Trade and Ethically traded goods, there are several common reactions. One of them goes something like this:

“I love fair trade! I have bought knick-knacks from XYZ charity to raise money for desperately poor people/orphans/abused women/etc.”

First, let me say that I am a proud giver to several non-profits close to my heart and I have certainly bought my share of items sold by charities raising money for a cause. I think it is fantastic work and I strongly believe the world needs active charitable communities. But while charity is important, it is important to distinguish between charity and fair trade.

Think of fair trade as a business practice that seeks to create lasting economic opportunities for people through commerce. Fair trade aims to prevent the degradation of people and resources by commercial industry that is horrifyingly common in the developing world, which produces most of our stuff. It involves everyone in the supply chain from the producers to the distributors and consumers following basic ethical business practices outlined by the World Fair Trade Organization (found at http://www.wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade).

By viewing a fair trade purchase as strictly an act of charity, we unintentionally do a disservice to the world of ethical commerce. In essence all trade should be fair. I would like to believe that someday everything we buy from toothbrushes to underwear to food can be produced in a way that we can feel good about. After all, we don’t just buy those things out of charity, we also buy things because of the need or desire they fulfill.

So Friends- Please Do keep giving to charities and also Do keep expanding your awareness of fair and ethical commerce. Both charity and fair trade can be positive forces in the world and often go hand in hand, yet are not exactly the same thing.

... And Do follow along with me as I embark on a journey to better educate myself and others about fair and ethical trade.


Tara, Co-Founder of KinShop Ethical Trading Partners

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