When you think of fair trade, you conjure a model of exchange that runs on values like community, fairness and sustainability, rather than just supply and demand. Whereas supply and demand allow every over-supplied resource, including workers and environmental resources, to be exploited, fair trade establishes a demand for products from industries that have agreed to substitute fairness and sustainability for exploitation, offering decent pay and treatment for workers and caring for the environment. This is an expression of values, and it doesn't stop there. It transmits these values to the world, not just by creating a market for goods produced according to a code of ethics, but by showing its business partners that the benefits they bestow on workers and the environment, benefit them in turn. Arguably the single best tool for promulgating these values is -- you guessed it -- the Fair Trade Premium.
The Fair Trade Foundation talks about the premium, which is "an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit – to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions." The video on the web page describing the premium talks about different projects enabled by this fund, such as a school, water works, and farming equipment. One respondent talks about using the money to pay tuition for the children of less fortunate neighbors.
Herein lies the magic of the Fair Trade Premium. Recipients spend the money cooperatively to benefit the community. Just as the Fair Trade concept has benefited producers beyond the ability of exploitative supply-and-demand economics, recipients of the premium are afforded a chance to benefit a whole village in ways that individuals can't benefit themselves. A town comes together to provide safe water, a library or a school, which helps everyone. Individuals wouldn't get far constructing these things for their own personal use. And even if they did, what real good would it do if everyone else still had to drink dirty water or had nothing to read? Communities who build together in this fashion witness the practical aspect of working together. But of course that's not all. Where neighbors invest in neighbors, they also care more about one another. Contrast this with so-called communities in which residents (not really neighbors) compete for resources and invest mostly in themselves. Through the Fair Trade Premium, the foundation promulgates the true spirit of community around the world.
Green Dragon Roasters is proud to be a part of the Fair Trade movement, which is working to restore values to human enterprise. When you buy our coffee, you become part of it, too.