Consumers can support fair trade practices through right purchasing decisions

Sustainability and fair trade practices are becoming an emerging trend in the packaged goods, fashion and handloom industry as protecting the environment is one of the top priorities among the people during the COVID-19 era. Just a quality product isn't enough now to woo customers. There are other factors like social and environmental values that align with their personal philosophy. Consumers are opting for those brands or companies that practice fair trade practices, including proving opportunity for disadvantaged producers, transparency, accountability, fair payment, no child labour, good working conditions and respecting the environment.  

It has been observed that the fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to contributing to environmental pollution. According to research, fashion production makes up 10 per cent of humanity's carbon emission and dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. Eighty-five per cent of all textiles go to the dump each year. Washing certain types of clothes sends thousands of bits of plastic into water bodies. Therefore, consumers should be careful before purchasing a product and fair trade needs to step in for achieving sustainability in our everyday choices of food and fashion.

What is fair trade?

According to the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, which seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of marginalised producers and workers-especially in the South. As consumers, we are not often aware of how our purchase decision can impact the lives of farmers, weavers and artisans down the production chain. If we are aware of our ground realities, then we would not take a decision knowingly to support exploitative production methods, and rather, will opt for companies that thrive on sustainability and fair trade. 

Why fair trade is important?

Often lack of knowledge about the production processes makes us ignorant of the ground realities. Just a little knowledge about the brand and its production sensibilities will help to put an end to the unfair practices towards poor farmers and weavers. Chances are that the factory does not practice any sustainable or ethical practices, garnering the possibility of your apparel being made by a minor, who may or may not have been paid for it even.

How fair trade can help in the long run?

Making a conscious decision of buying products that are fair trade certified can help in the following ways:

Tackling growing poverty: Fair trade offers a minimum price to producers. However, if prices in the global market drop below this level, farmers selling to fair trade distributors can be sure that they get a fair price.

Saving the environment: Following fair trade practices also encourage the production of environmentally conscious and friendly products. Fair trade products are also free from ingredients that harm the environment. These are produced with limited pesticides and fertilisers, making the products better for consumption or use without causing any environmental issues.

Helping the community grow: During a pandemic, when weavers and artisans are the worst affected by the economic slowdown, buying a fair trade product also provides them some source of earning. Fair trade companies often use their extra funds for community development programmes like building schools, providing healthcare facilities and better infrastructure for artisans and weavers.