A few weeks ago, once again, we cheers-ed to midnight and reflected on the unfortunate and/or exhilarating events of the previous year. This New Year’s, like many before, you likely recalled the events of the last 365 days and thought, “that was a bit of a shit-show.”
Time after time, we observe the world around us—the poverty, the inequity, the human rights violations—and think, “someone ought to do something about that.” You’re right, someone ought to do something about that...and honey, in 2018, that someone is you.
Ayu, a Fair Trade candle artisan in Bali. See their beautiful items on Faire!
Whether you are conscious of it or not, you are the driving force of the global economy. Although we rarely consider this fact when browsing the interwebs, our purchases literally determine the products that we see in the market. So...where does all your ish’ come from?
You probably know who made the coffee you are sippin’, but who made the cup? Who harvested the beans? Were they paid a fair wage? If you can answer these questions, what are you still doing here? Go enjoy that latte.
For the rest of you, consider who you are supporting when you make your purchases. A study by RSM indicated that millennials desire to support businesses whose operations and business models are aligned with their own values. Pats on the back because it’s that kind of thinking that will change the world.
Wayan Seri & Family (the dog is Puggi!), handmade artisans, in Bali.
So, sidebar, how did this happen? Well, the political and social climate of the countries where we source our products stands in stark contrast to that of the U.S. Over 180 laws exist to protect U.S. citizens from unfair working conditions, including pay requirements and child labor laws.
Unfortunately, similar policies are lacking in most major garment-producing countries around the globe.
The minimum wage in these nations is rarely enough for workers to live in a slum. A SLUM. Surely not, right? The lack of fair working policies in these countries creates a pervasive cycle of poverty that is inescapable. The individuals in these countries don’t want charity, they want the same opportunity that you do to make a sustainable living.
Now, I get that this revelation is not the most sunshine-y way to start the new year, or even a new day. But the silver lining is this: just as we have the opportunity to be the villain, we can also be the hero to these underprivileged workers––we have the simple choice, everyday, to do the right thing.
As individual consumers in a first world country, we are in a unique position to be part of a positive change in these communities. So, why continue to support a system that pays workers the equivalent of $2 an hour, if we would refuse to be paid the same amount? Many foreign citizens do not have the same democratic opportunity we do to fight for their human rights.
Diana, a dreamcatcher artisan.
But, by supporting Fair Trade and other ethical businesses, we can use our privilege to help them earn the rights that they deserve. In the words of Voltaire (and also Spiderman’s Uncle Ben), “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Now, I know you didn't come here to learn about economics, so I will make this simple: Fair Trade Demand up + Evil Sweatshop Demand down = More ethical brands in the market! We’re taking our global responsibility and running with it….and likely, because you’re here, you already are too.