The principle behind fair trade is that purchasing is not merely a matter of self-interest, but has an ethical dimension. Fair trade ensures that goods are labelled and marketed with sufficient information about their environmental and social impact to facilitate ethical purchasing decisions. Fair trade clothing ensures that ethically run companies are marketed to ethical consumers.
The principles of Fair Trade
Fair trade is about ethical and eco-shopping. Its principle is that buying goods should not be just a consumer decision, but is also an ethical decision in which the impact of your purchasing decisions upon the environment and upon the workers who produce the goods must be seriously considered. It recognizes that if consumers buy clothes from companies that oppress workers and/or whose business is not run in an eco-friendly manner, they are responsible for backing an unfair system.
Environmentally conscious shoppers want to know that their purchasing decisions are not harmful to the environment. The fair trade logo shows them that the goods have been produced in an environmentally friendly, sustainable way. For example, fair trade would promote organic cotton rather than non-organic. Take another example, if wool is being used the fair trade logo would indicate that the animals used were not being maltreated.
The reason to be concerned
The pressure behind this concern for eco-clothing is that some forms of production are environmentally harmful. Cotton, for example, drains the soil of nutrients if it is grown on land for several years running and can leave land devastated. Fair trade supporters realize that if they buy cotton from ecologically unsustainable sources they are participating in the destruction of their own environment.
Why Fair Trade clothing
The clothing trade sources goods from a wide range of factories. Some of them are responsible, but others are not. Places nicknamed sweatshops employ child labour or underpaid women at very low wages. The working conditions are unhealthy and unsafe. These workplaces can produce goods cheaper than honest workplaces can do, so they tend to gain an unfair advantage. Fair trade supporters know that if they buy goods made in these sweatshops they are helping to support injustice and the system that produces it, so they decide to support employers who operate in an ethically acceptable manner. They see ethical clothing as the way to establish a new, ethical world economic order.
Traidcraft is a good example of a fair trade organisation. It combines a trading company that gives a fair price to producers with a development charity that works to promote fairness in the workplace, e.g. fair wage and safer, more humane working conditions. Traidcraft believes that supporting fair trade makes for a better world.