Why Fair Trade is not a Thing

Author: Iris Waller

As we enjoy the last days of Indian summer in the UK, barbeque charcoal is back on display in the supermarkets. I was surprised to see one brand stamped as FairTrade. - did you know that was a thing?

I grabbed my bag, and heard a passing dad comment to his family: “Blimey. Fair trade charcoal. Now you can’t even buy coal without having to feel guilty!” It stopped me in my tracks.

Until now I honestly have never given charcoal a second thought. But then again, why shouldn’t it be fair trade? All it means, is that it is produced by people who make a decent living, and bought by us at a fair price.


I prefer not to make every trip to the supermarket a foray into the world of ethical shopping. Like you, I would very much just like to get on with it. After all, it could also just have been a marketing ploy - perhaps all coal is fair trade?

So let me throw the necessity to have fair-trade as a label as food for your thoughts.

In a society where a US senator had to be made aware of the fact that food is a basic human right, our standards have sunk rather low. We demand…. everything. But at the right price, which very often means "at all cost".

It is impossible for us to change the state of the world overnight, but purchasing only goods that help the people who produced it to stay not just alive, but also prosper, is a good start in my book.

I also got stooped at the attitude: “Now they make me feel guilty if I don’t buy the right stuff” It translates to me as: “I am aware that something isn’t right, but also I really want to just ignore it."  

There is only one outcome where ignorance could truly be bliss
Using this random list, imagine that we could be assured that everything we bought was ok all the way back to the source. That we would not get poisoned by the food we prepare on the fair trade coal, that the clothes we wear were stylish and well-made from organic or recycled fabrics, that neither our peanut butter nor our furniture was part of deforestation, and that we all happily co-existed with our planet's best interest at heart, no second thoughts necessary.

Thankfully change is in the air, and there are many brands that fight for our planet without compromising on standards, quality and fairness. To them, fair trade is not a thing - it just IS.... But while we are slowly working on the change, I guess, we have to do with labels. Organic, fair trade, SDG5,SDG12,SDG13, whatever it takes. Spending a second to look for the signs is a small price to pay for a better world.

Inclusive Trade is a platform that brings these brands together so that you can just get on with it. From recycled denim to fair trade chocolate, I can find everything under one electronic roof-top - click here to shop artisans and brands

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