Why You Should Be Shopping Fairtrade

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Fairtrade is about so much more than just bananas and coffee- did you know that fashion can be fairtrade too? Mirabelle recently sent me some jewellery from their fairtrade collection, and it got me thinking about how we can make shopping ethically for clothing and jewellery more accessible, as well as reducing the problem of greenwashing, and I think that Fairtrade certification is a great place to start.  Read on to find out more.

What is fairtrade?

The Fairtrade Foundation is an organisation which requiring companies producing consumer goods to pay fair prices to their suppliers; it is a simple way to make a difference to the lives of the people who grow the things we love. Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.

Fairtrade is a tool for reducing poverty in developing nations. It's a form of Trade that builds equitable and long-term partnerships between producers in developing regions of the world and consumers in the north.

The Fairtrade foundation guarantees many things including the following :

  • Producers receive a minimum set price for their goods, financial and technical support, healthy and safe working conditions, economic development of their communities, and educational opportunities for their children.

  • Consumers receive excellent products plus the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are actively addressing poverty, preserving the environment, and promoting an end to child labour.

  • The Planet receives a chance at health and healing since Fair Trade actively promotes sustainable farming techniques, biodiversity, and bird and animal preservation.

You may have seen the Fairtrade logo on produce like bananas, chocolate bars and even wine in your local supermarket, but the components of wearable products like gold jewellery or cotton t-shirts can be certified as fairtrade too, which means the people who worked in the fields and mines make a decent living from what they do. Obviously, this is a hugely important element of ethical fashion, because:
no matter how beautiful a product looks, if the people who created it were not treated or paid fairly, it will never truly be beautiful.

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Fairtrade Gold

Gold is mined all over the world, the metal-rich rock, known as ore, is extracted from the Earth’s crust. 90% of gold miners globally are artisanal and small-scale miners and an estimated 100 million people worldwide rely on small-scale mining to support their families and communities. Miners work in remote areas and have few other options for making a living.

In non-Fairtrade small-scale gold mines, miners extract the precious metal using toxic chemicals such as mercury, which is harmful for human health and the environment. They simply can’t afford to use safer processing methods. This can cause birth defects, brain and kidney damage, and can contaminate water supplies, entering the food chain through poisoned fish. Small-scale gold mining is the largest source of mercury pollution to air and water combined.

Small-scale miners are also exploited by traders because of their poverty, and the absence of regulation and legal protections. They rarely receive a fair price for their product, even when the world gold price rises, as they are usually offered below the market price. Because of this, these miners struggle to generate enough profit or attract the finance needed to invest in their operations or in safer, more efficient mining practices and technology.

Workers in Fairtrade certified gold mines receive a guaranteed Fairtrade Minimum Price for their gold as well as a Premium to spend on improving their businesses or on community projects, such as education, clean water and healthcare. Fairtrade certification means these small scale-miners meet strict fairtrade standards.

This can help them to improve their mining and business practices as well as open the market to generate more sales on better terms. The Fairtrade Gold Standards include strict requirements on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labour and protection of the environment.


Fairtrade Cotton

Cotton farmers in developing countries, including leading producers like India and China, live in hardship. As many as 100 million households are directly engaged in cotton production and an estimated 300 million people work in the cotton sector when family labour, farm labour and workers in ancillary services such as transportation, ginning, baling and storage are taken into account. For farmers, the challenges range from the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton, through to competition from highly subsidised producers in rich countries and poor terms of trade.

Fairtrade cotton was launched to put the spotlight on these farmers who are often left invisible, neglected and poor at the end of a long and complex cotton supply chain. Through tools like the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium and stronger, more democratic organisations, Fairtrade has sought to provide these farmers with an alternative route to trade and higher, more stable incomes.  

Watch the short video below to find out more:

The Mirabelle fairtrade collection is made in Indonesia, using certified Fairtrade gold, as well as recycled glass, freshwater pearls and semi-precious stones, all of which are ethically sourced.

I am wearing the following Mirabelle pieces, which are available online now:

If you want to find out more about ethical and sustainable jewellery, you can read my blog post all about why, how and where to buy it:

 A Beginner's Guide to Sustainable Jewellery

For clothing, there are lots of great fashion companies using fairtrade materials, but my favourite is People Tree, a UK company producing womenswear from organic and fairtrade fabrics. Discover more in my ethical fashion brand directory.

Let me know what you think in the comments- is fairtrade something you are familiar with, and is it something you look for when you shop?