Our legally-constituted artisans cooperative has been a supplier to 'Fair Trade' retailers since 1975 at an average of 5000usd$/month in product sales. The Fair Trade umbrella organization publishes these same 'Ten Fair Trade Principles', without amendment all these years. These Principles are proudly reproduced on many of the FT retailers' web-sites. Retailers are licensed to make such claims by paying membership fees in an umbrella org.
However, these Principles are intended for consumption by the consumers and not intended to be read by the suppliers or applied to us. In any case, these principles are not honored in practice and never have been. Symbolic gestures are referred to from time to time, but the degree of cynicism has grown greater and greater as these Principles diverge from practice.
FAIR TRADE PRINCIPLE #1
Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Members create economic opportunities through trading partnerships with marginalized producers. Members place the interests of producers and their communities as the primary concern of their enterprise.
Do Fair Trade businesses really "place the interests of producers and their communities as the primary concern of their enterprise"? Of course, they do not. Is this criminal fraud?
FAIR TRADE PRINCIPLE #2
Fair Trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent, and respectful. Members show consideration for producers by sharing information about the entire trading chain through honest and proactive communication. They create mechanisms to help customers and producers feel actively involved in the trading chain. If problems arise, members work cooperatively with fair trade partners and other organizations to implement solutions.
In the experience of our group with Fair Trade, we have never been treated with respect. We have always been coldly handled in the way that Walmart, for example, treats its suppliers.
When we privately asked for consideration of the fact that we were selling below cost, this crucial observation was angrily taken as if we had betrayed the Fair Trade movement and as a result our cooperative was the subject of calumny and was blacklisted among the members, no matter that fifteen artisan families lost their employment income as a result.
Becasue our product is so well-received by the public, we thought we could ask for a raise. In december 2017, we were selling from the same price-list as in the year 2000, even though the cost of materials and of everything else had gone up significantly in that time interval.
FAIR TRADE PRINCIPLE #3
Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence. Members maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect, so that producers can improve their skills and their access to markets.
Our Fair Trade distributor, far from acting to improve our access to markets, monopolized our unique jewelry product and tried to keep retailers from contacting us directly. We never experienced any solidarity, trust, nor mutual respect. Fair Trade buyers unsuccessfuly attempted to reproduce our product on several ocassions. Our principle buyer changed one letter of our name and trademarked this in a transparent attempt to hijack our identity.
FAIR TRADE PRINCIPLE #9
Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive and equitable change. Members respect the development of products, practices, and organizational models based on indigenous traditions and techniques to sustain cultures and revitalize traditions. Members balance market needs with producers’ cultural heritage.
there was no effort whatsoever put into identifying the features of our cultural traditions. This statement of principle was intended to convince the buyer of something that is untrue.
Our cooperative was an important supplier to the Fair Trade markets since 1975; One has never heard of a supplier who was treated according to these principles. In the beginning, Fair Trade was created by world-travellers, idealistic entrepeneurs and third world artisans. Over the years it evolved into a cynical buy-sell business like any other, only with a twist:
The Fair Trade consumer is motivated to purchase because he or she believes that such a purchase benefits a creator community, when this is so much hokum. Is this criminal fraud?