Fair Trade – A Commonsense Cornerstone

31 July 2019

Fair Trade is one of our cornerstone values at Commonsense and we are proud to carry the widest selection of Fair Trade food in the country.

Commonsense is well known as an ethical trader and an absolutely integral part of this is fair trading. That includes how we deal with our suppliers, our staff, our customers - with all people we’re involved with as this is what we believe to be the right way to do business. In fact, it should be the only way to do business!  

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Image courtesy of Fairtrade Australia & NZ Ltd

So what exactly is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a way of trading where the benefits are shared between producers, customers and the environment! Long term Fair Trade producers, Karma Cola explain it like this:

“The Fair Trade system was put in place to protect farmers who were historically exploited by big businesses trading commodities from developing nations. It enables growers to be in control of their own business on their own farms and on their own terms.”

Together, by selling and buying fair trade, we’re supporting:

  • A fair and stable price for producers;
  • Long-term trading relationships;
  • Investments in local community development such as schools, health services, roads, bridges;
  • Opportunities for producers to gain knowledge & skills needed to operate in the global market; and 
  • Environmentally sustainable farming methods.
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Image courtesy of Trade Aid NZ 

Why does it matter?

It is important that our buying choices are not hurting the people who make products and grow our food. Every time you buy something, anything, you are making a choice about where your money will go. The deeper the understanding we can have about where our food comes from, the more choice it gives you as to how you spend your dollar. 

Considering that about 70% of cacao used worldwide is sourced from West African countries, particularly the Ivory Coast, where the use of child and slave labour is widespread, there is a very good chance that "ordinary" uncertified chocolate is produced using inhumane methods. Fair Trade certification ensures that the money you spend protects the farmers and communities in the countries where some of our food is grown.

Do products have to be certified?

Much like the word ‘organic’, there is no regulation in New Zealand on the words ‘Fair Trade’. So any producer can write ‘Fair Trade’, on their packaging without certification or any proof that it is true. The same goes for ‘ethically sourced’ and ‘equitably traded’ etc. When something is certified, you can rest easy knowing that strict regulations are in place to ensure your food isn’t coming at a high price to the people who made it.

As our co-founder and Fair Trade pioneer, Marion Wood puts it:

“When something isn’t certified Fair Trade, we only have the employers and business owners’ word for it that their staff are being treated ethically, and that’s the difference between genuine ethical business and someone saying ‘I’m a good employer’. You can never take the word of the employer, you must always go past them and ask the workers. That’s part of the whole basis of Fair Trade – that the workers have a say.”

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Image courtesy of Trade Aid

So who can we trust?

A great start is with the certifications below. You’re bound to see others pop up, so it’s important to ask for help or to do your own research when you see these. In Aotearoa New Zealand we are lucky to have Trade Aid whose name is synonymous with Fair Trade -  anything sold by Trade Aid can be trusted. Trade Aid is certified by the World Fair Trade Organisation. The Fairtrade Labelling Association also certifies products all across the world.

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And the cost?

Imagine if every brand using unconscionable methods to bring their product to market had to have a sticker announcing that "exploitation was used to produce this product". Would anyone buy it? Of course not! Yet, this is potentially the sad reality of the production of many products you can buy. In a perfect world our suppliers wouldn't be put to the additional expense just to be able to say that their products are free from exploitation and misery but unfortunately this is the system that we have in place at the moment. Certification is the only way we can be sure about the source of the products we sell and, because a fair price is being paid, and there is a cost to the certification process, these products can be more expensive as a result.

At Commonsense we firmly believe that, while the financial cost may be a little more for Fair Trade certified products, it is a relatively small price to pay to improve the lives of the people who spend their days growing, creating, processing and providing us with some of our favourite products.

It’s just Commonsense.