On May 13, Fair Trade Day will honor the movement for a world in which all laborers are paid more fairly for the work they do and the products they create. Fair trade aims to create a more equal and positive working situation for laborers around the world. Many laborers producing some of the world’s most lucrative products—like coffee, clothing, and chocolate—are living in poverty and collecting painfully low wages. Fair Trade aims to change this. The movement is an actionable step toward reducing poverty, mistreatment of workers, climate issues, and economic constraints around the world. The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) created the holiday in 2004 and declared that it would be celebrated on the second Saturday of each May. The holiday consists of worldwide festivals and other events that celebrate the importance of fair trade and encourage others to join in the fight.

We here in the first world take our coffee, bananas, jeans and sneakers for granted, but there are many people in other countries that are not so lucky. Every day, tens of thousands of people in various Asian, African and South American countries—men, women and even children—work themselves to the bone in nearly unbearable conditions for pennies so we can continue to enjoy those things.

However, there are many people in this world who feel that everyone deserves decent wages and working conditions, regardless of where they live, and these people have created Fair Trade Day. Fair Trade Day is a global event that aims to draw attention to the objectives and achievements of the Fair Trade movement.

The Fair Trade movement campaigns to improve the lives of workers and small producers, especially those within developing economies, by asserting their rights and raising their visibility within international trade. The movement invites consumers to participate in its campaign by choosing Fair Trade alternatives to existing products.

History of Fair Trade Day

World Fair Trade Day was created by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) in 2004, though the WFTO itself came into existence 15 years earlier, in 1989.

WFTO is a global association of 324 organizations in over 70 countries, and Fair Trade Day takes place on the second Saturday of May of each year, and it is an inclusive worldwide festival of events celebrating Fair Trade as a tangible contribution to the fight against poverty and exploitation, climate change and the economic crisis that has the greatest impact on the world’s most vulnerable populations.

WFTO’s top ten priorities are:

  • Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
  • Transparency and Accountability
  • Fair Trading Practices
  • Payment of a Fair Price
  • Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor
  • Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Freedom of Association
  • Ensuring Good Working Conditions
  • Providing Capacity Building
  • Promoting Fair Trade
  • Respect for the Environment

WFTO believes that the global crisis confirms the need for a fair and sustainable economy locally and globally. Trade must benefit the most vulnerable and deliver sustainable livelihoods by developing opportunities for small and disadvantaged producers.

Millions of producers and traders, businesses and policymakers, supporting organizations and volunteers have contributed to the substantial growth of Fair Trade globally.

How can you tell if something is Fair Trade?

When buying products, you may not be able to tell whether they are Fair Trade or not. However, there are some indicators that you can look out for. There are a number of organizations that certify fair trade products on a third-party basis. For example, the Fair Trade Federation will often certify artisan handicrafts. This is why it is a good idea to take some time to familiarize yourself with the different labels that are used in order to certify a fair trade product. 

Of course, a lot of products are bought over the Internet today. Even if they are not, you will find that most companies will have a web presence. This is why it is a good idea to examine the company online and take a look at their website. Good businesses will offer detailed information about their fair trade policies and practices. They will be transparent about their relationship with their vendors and they will want to educate you about fair trade and what it really is. You should also find out whether they are members of the World Fair Trade Organization (WTFO) or a similar body. This should help you to determine whether they are fair trade or not. 

Why we love Fair Trade Day

We definitely believe that Fair Trade Day is an occasion to be celebrated. After all, it helps to create a more ethical world. When workers are paid fairly, they and their families are able to lead better lives. Everyone benefits because there is a fairer and healthier world. It helps to open our eyes to some of the injustices in the world so that we can all fight to do better. 

Aside from this, fair trade can benefit our precious planet as well. This is because businesses that do not adhere to the fair trade standards in place tend to make products at rates that are not sustainable and this does a lot of damage to the environment. Respect for the planet is one of the major tenets of fair trade. This is especially important when it comes to climate change. 

How to celebrate Fair Trade Day

Fair Trade Day is observed in countries across the world by various events in which local producers and artisans mark the contribution that has been made by Fair Trade initiatives. Often involving food and art, the events are intended to be a colorful and enjoyable reminder of the success of the movement to date, and a prompt for consumers to consider Fair Trade options within their shopping.

If you want to take part in this special day, researching the work conditions of people around the world would be a good place to start, just so you can get a general idea about how those people are forced to live. You are likely to be shocked at how the things you enjoy on an everyday basis are made, but awareness is the first step towards making any kind of chain.

The next step would be to raise awareness among your family and friends—even sharing information on Facebook or Twitter can go along way, as the ALS Ice Bucket challenge of 2014 so perfectly proved.

Last but not least, you could make the simple but effective promise to only buy certified Fair Trade products, thereby giving your hard-earned money to only those companies that truly care about the well-being of those less fortunate.

Fundraise for Fair Trade Day or go to an event

There are usually events going on in all countries for Fair Trade Day, so you’re bound to find something in your local area. If you cannot, or you would rather host an event yourself, why not put on a Fair Trade day? Fundraising is a great thing to do at any time of the year, and there is no better date to get involved than on Fair Trade Day. No matter whether you organise a chocolate tasting session, a bake sale, or you decide to put on a fun run, the money that you raise will play a huge part in bringing Fair Trade to hardworking workers and farmers across the globe. No matter whether you raise money for the cause or you decide to raise awareness about it, you are going to do your bit.

How to Observe Fair Trade Day

  1. Buy fair trade products

    Next time you need to make a purchase at your local supermarket, be sure that the product is fair trade certified. If your local stores don’t carry fair trade products, encourage them to do so, and explain the movement’s benefits.

  2. Share a selfie

    The World Fair Trade Organization is calling on anyone celebrating the holiday to share a group selfie on social media with the hashtags #FairTradeDay and #AgentForChange. You can participate by gathering your friends (and perhaps a few fair trade products you love), printing out visuals provided by WFTO, and locking hands in the photo. After you post, WFTO might share your images on their social media platforms. WFTO believes we can create a fairer world “together, hand in hand,” so it’s only fitting to share a photo with locked hands.

  3. Attend a local fair trade event

    Communities around the world celebrate Fair Trade Day with cheerful events that call attention to food and artisan products created under fair trade initiatives. Find an event in your area and bring a friend! If you’re feeling inspired, you can even host or organize your own fair trade activity or event in your area. Every little step helps to raise awareness.

Why Fair Trade Day is Important

  1. It creates a more ethical world

    When workers are paid fairly, they and their families can lead better lives. That leads to a healthier world, which benefits everyone. The fight for fair trade is a powerful eye-opener into some of the many other injustices in our world, and what we can do to improve them.

  2. It reminds us not to take everyday products for granted

    For each bag of coffee beans we bring home from the grocery store, there may be laborers who were unfairly paid for helping to get the product on shelves. The convenience of the modern world makes it very easy to mindlessly consume, but it’s always important to consider where our products come from. Behind every pair of jeans, packet of tea, or stack of candy bars we see on a store shelf is a group of real people who worked hard to get those products there. It’s our global responsibility to ensure that such laborers are working in safe conditions and are being paid enough to support themselves and their families.

  3. It can benefit the environment

    Companies that do not adhere to fair trade standards often create products at an unsustainable rate that does major damage to the earth. A major tenet of fair trade is respect for the environment, and that’s especially important in the fact of climate change.

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