OAKLAND, California — Between holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings and dinner parties, the average American attends multiple events throughout the year that require gifts. In addition, American society and culture is built upon a foundation of consumerism. Media convinces us that we exist to make money and then spend it on the next best thing. Hope, however, is not lost.
Since its origin after World War II, a new form of the consumer process, fair trade, has evolved redeeming transactions into purchases that benefit those in need.
Fair Trade products are “food or crafts that are produced under standards designed to end and prevent the poverty, sweatshop labor conditions, and environmental degradation that are endemic to free trade that puts profit above people and the planet.” Today, “18 percent of Americans buy fair trade, resulting in $35 million invested back into poor communities around the world each year.”
Marie Claire magazine went as far as to title an article “Who Says You Can’t Change the World with a Mascara?” promoting several cosmetic products that are either fair trade or donate proceeds to various charities.
In its debut, fair trade primarily offered food products such as coffee, tea, and chocolate but has expanded tremendously in the past 10 years. Websites such as SERRV dedicated to fair trade products offer everything from wind chimes to kites created by artisans from Bali, Peru, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam and Bangladesh among many other locations around the world.
Today some of the most well-known and popular fair trade brands are among some of the top brands competing with non fair trade companies. These brands include, Prana, Bigelow Tea, Dunn. Bros Coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts incorporated and Whole Foods Market.
In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he basis a company’s success off of the belief that humans are emotional beings who are more likely to make a purchase not on what a company does but why they do it. People that buy fair trade products are loyal customers because their beliefs coincide with the company’s beliefs regarding human rights and social justice. Fair trade companies such as those previously listed are successful because of the products they offer but maintain that success through the purpose behind their brand.
North American fair trade advocates have found their most loyal customers to be university students, faith based organizations, co-op shoppers, environmentalists, organized labor, and community-farm proponents: as Sinek suggests, people whose beliefs coincide with fair trade’s mission.
For this reason, along with the feel good factor, fair trade is able to effectively generate customer loyalty. Why is it that people who accomplish a challenging work out are likely to revisit the gym? It is the feel good factor that causes people to repeat behavior. This same principle follows for people who buy fair trade products. Customers feel good about buying something that was made without harm to people and is helping those in need and therefore are more likely to purchase fair trade again.
Fair trade offers consumers an opportunity to better the world in their everyday routine. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Fair trade makes this challenge simple an attainable for any shopping experience.