Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taking a "Fresh Look" at Fair Trade with Tough Questions

Next week, Jeff Goldman of Fair Trade Resource Network, and I will be appearing on the RCN cable show Fresh Outlook. The interview will be broadcast on Channel 53 in many Northeast markets and then posted to the web.

We expect and hope for some tough questions about the Fair Trade model. Some of the typical inquires, "Doesn't Fair Trade skew the market by encouraging farmers to overproduce?" "Isn't Fair Trade too expensive for most American consumers?" "Does mainstreaming dilute the power and potential of Fair Trade principles?"

If you were the host, what would your questions be? Please post some comments with your tough inquiries. This will help me and Jeff prep, for sure, but I also welcome the chance to consider what conscious consumers want to know.


  1. Anonymous3:54 PM

    If I was a journalist and not an industry insider, I would ask questions like these:

    1. What is it going to take for you all to get Fair Trade to the tipping point, to move from fringe to mainstream?

    2. Other standards have been diluted as they've gone mainstream, to the point where splinter fringe groups have appeared in response (e.g. USDA organic versus "beyond organic" groups); how are you going to avoid that with Fair Trade?

    3. Why would everyday citizens need more than one Fair Trade certification logo (organization)?

  2. Great suggestions, thanks Scott. If I had to answer quickly right now I'd say:

    1) Fair Trade needs to embrace a broader view of itself beyond the important but narrow concern of helping economically poor people get market access, promote community development. It needs to claim a platform of transforming our understanding of the roles of consumers, businesses, and producers in the marketplace.
    2) Some would argue the standards have already been diluted, as Fair Trade Sports has definitely grappled with given concerns that "minimum" wages and prices in the FT system are not adequate for a decent standard of living. What we need is to establish the highest bars, reward organizations that meet those standards, all the while recognizing that "one size cannot fit all" circumstances.
    3. Pithy response that actually reflects what I have heard from a leading Fair Trade certifer: competition is good in a market based system.

    And I will give these more good thought!