My (Shared) Vision for Fair Trade


A lot of thoughts and ideas were presented at this years Fair Trade Federation conference in Louisville Kentucky. Inclusion, diversity, domestic fair trade, support for First Nations, fashion.

As we sat down for the welcome dinner, I took a glance around the dinning room and I felt uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable with the fact that all the wait staff were African American and we as a fair trade group are predominately white. My white privilege guilt was at an all time high. I've experienced segregation like this before in the states but it fails to feel acceptable. Turns out I wasn't the only one that felt that way. It created a new conversion within our group about diversity and inclusion. Why is the majority of our group white and what are the barriers to other groups in joining our movement? Some of us had an impromptu meeting to start this conversation, lead by Daphna Lewinshtein from Crafttalk. It's another road in our journey through the fair trade movement, but with any movement nothing is perfect and acceptance of imperfection is a good thing.

That group chat naturally flowed well after being in Jonathan Rosenthal's (executive director of the New Economy Coalition) session about his vision for fair trade. A vision of a movement that needs to get away from that white saviour complex, a movement that needs to connect within our own community groups, form networks with other social justice groups, where business can be a healing force not an extracting force. He spoke thoughts that I continually have about how as individuals in fair trade, we need to live an authentic life. The principles of fair trade need to flow into our own lives day in and day out. How can we accomplish our goal of putting the power back into the hands of the artisan when we lack humility? How can we grow this movement when we separate ourselves from others? The more of us there are the stronger we will be and the closer we get to trans-formative trade being the only kind of trade.

Kirsten Dickerson, founder and CEO of Raven and Lily spoke to us about how fair trade has a huge opportunity right now in fashion. Fashion is the second largest polluter and employs 1 in 6 people worldwide, how can fair trade not be apart of this? Only 1% of clothing is produced ethically and a smaller fraction of that is fair trade. How many woven baskets do I really need? Not as many pairs of socks and underwear that's for sure. Fair Trade needs to seek new opportunities, more relevant opportunities and fashion is just that. Just like Kirsten, I want people to see Fair Trade simply as trade, no distinction, all trade should just be fair. Fashion is a key component to that and it's always been a goal of mine to show people that ethically produced items don't involve compromising style.

This conference was inspiring, encouraging and vision filled. I have hope for Fair Trade, it has a promising future and being part of the Fair Trade Federation, I know it's in good hands. It was well worth the 9 hour drive.

Stay tuned for part two, domestic fair trade and support for First Nations.