We use this Yellow Dot to represent products where we believe that efforts are being made by the supplier or manufacturer to support fair and sustainable trading principles. The hope is that we can encourage suppliers and manufacturers to take steps now to help society evolve towards the ideal scenario whereby products are not only manufactured in circumstances that consider the dignity of the people who make them but also the sutainablility of the planet as a whole.
Many people use varying terms such as Fairtrade, fair trade, fairly traded, ethical etc. The term ‘Fairtrade’ as one word and which is part of the Fairtrade Foundation’s logo and trademark is used for products that have actually been certified ‘Fairtrade’ This certification is given by the Fairtrade Foundation after they check that the growers or workers have been given fair pay and treatment for their contribution to the making of the product. You can read more about the Fairtrade Foundation here www.fairtrade.org.uk
In the main, the Fairtrade mark has traditionally applied to raw foods such as bananas, cocoa, avocados etc. This was to ensure that first and foremost, farmers were being given a fair price for the food that they grew. This is why the Fairtrade logo could be seen mostly in supermarkets on the actual food products. The demand for Fairtrade certified foods has grown rapidly, in 2003 there were approximately 150 certified Fairtrade products and by 2007 there are over 3000.
The Fairtrade Foundation has been working very hard to extend its certification to other forms of products such as chocolates and cotton and there is now an officially certified Fairtrade football which is available from Suma Co-operative along with Fairtrade certified clothing, towels and robes.
Hopefully as demand grows for Fairtrade products the Fairtrade Foundation will continue to extend its certification to cover other forms of products such as gifts, crafts, accessories and more ranges of clothing.
Until such a time when independent certification is available for a wide range of products, we feel that it is very important to try to support, wherever possible, those suppliers, manufacturers and communities who demonstrate their support for fair trade principles, and who are trying to benefit the communities in which they trade or work.
We also try to support suppliers who, for example, try to encourage the use of natural and sustainable materials and contemporary design to maintain ancient skills and traditional crafts; or where regular work and the development of traditional skills can allow people the option to work in their homes or their communities, so that villagers are not forced to travel miles away to factories or cities away from their families; or where assistance is given to local schools or medical facilities.
Our own methods for selecting these products are based on our research which includes detailed questionnaires, close work directly with suppliers who are often members of fair trade associations such as IFAT (International Federation for Alternative Trade www.ifat.org ), or BAFTS ( British Association for Fair Trade Shops www.bafts.org.uk ), or direct purchases from community groups who have been specifically set up and assisted by charities for the purpose of bringing income to their communities, and/or relationships with suppliers who have long established reputations in this area and have the same philosophy as ourselves.
We also favour products where we have good reason to believe that efforts have been made to establish improved conditions for the people involved in the factory. We look for standards such as the SA8000 which is an international certification, covering worker's pay and conditions as well as the issues such as the absolute prohibition of the use of child labour.
We look for organic certificates because these standards are not only checking for the ecological issues but they tend to cover animal welfare and particularly with cotton for example, they cover social aspects as well.
Many NGO’s and charities have set up projects that give communities opportunities to break the poverty barrier. Read about our Silver bag here for example or see the work being carried out by Aux Coeurs du Monde, the foundation behind products such as our Organic Shea Butter.
When describing our products we use the term Fairtrade when referring to those products that have been certified as Fairtrade by the Fairtrade Foundation. We use the terms ‘fairly traded’ or ‘fair trade’ for other products that we feel fit the various criteria as explained above and which we still feel deserve our support.
As well as our own assessments and research about our products we have the assessment of an independent environmental expert who vets all the products we choose to sell.
We hope that by encouraging a market for 'good' products we can bring benefit not only to the general environment but to developing communities as well, and at the same time, work hard to create choice, awareness and demand by the consumer. As this grows and volumes of purchases increase we believe that consumer demand will eventually result in making independent and official fair trade accreditation far more viable which will bring more confidence into this market sector. This of course, in itself, will have the compounding effect of increasing the purchases from concerned consumers. Until that time the system does rely on assessment, questionnaires, trust and the genuine concerns of dedicated individuals and charities within the chain of supply.
Our own thoughts are that whilst there is always the concern that the words 'ethical' and 'fair' may be abused and certainly vigilance is necessary, we believe that the need to build up awareness about these issues (and thus the viability of establishing accredited practice) is so important in the long term that the possible downsides along the way need not detract from this 'mission'. We believe that it started with the food market and eventually consideration about fairness and sustainability will eventually be applied to all kinds of different products.
Criteria devised by Green Dot Guides Ltd and environmental expert Edwin Datschefski.
If you have any comments please send them to dotguides(at)greendotguides(dot)com
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