Ethical vs. Fair Trade, let us change the narrative

We are now entering into a sensitive subject that I am greatly passionate about. I will only begin to touch the surface as I can become pretty long winded if you get me started.

I wanted to introduce these two words that we are hearing more often than not.

Ethical and Fair Trade.

I actually cringe a little putting them on the same line because they are vastly different in terms of the actions it takes to fulfill these terms. In our new and growing socially conscious consumer world, we tend to use these words interchangeably, but let me define these for you.

Ethical is relating to moral practices and avoiding activities that do harm to people.

Fair Trade is simply a trade between companies in developed countries and producers in developing countries in which fair prices are paid to the producers.

You can be fair trade without being ethical in your practices, but you cannot be ethical without being fair trade.

There are many fair-trade companies around the world that are meeting industry standards and paying fair wages that match the minimum wage of the developing country they are purchasing from and the truth is, that is something to be proud of.

My challenge to fair-trade is what practices are we implementing to create sustainability? If we have the purchasing power, then how are we using it to create long term change and empowerment versus a short-term purchase to possibly never returning to that artisan again?

Are we giving artisans around the world a shallow hope, not allowing them to foster into deep roots that create the opportunity for them to flourish?

We are better than this.

As an ethical business and consumer – you care not only encompassing fair wages into your practices, but you are caring about the entire process as a whole. You are putting on a holistic lens and viewing it from a bird’s eye view, allowing yourself to see every angle of the process. It is not just about the transaction of goods for fair wages, but it is about the artisan, their family, their community and their future.

Ethical is about morals, building a foundation of trust and deep relationships that are honoring, uplifting and empowering. Ethical is a step above fair-trade because it is bridging the gap for the artisan’s well-being from surviving to thriving.

As I finish my last year of my doctorate – my research is focused on sustainable development in social enterprises. This May, I will receive a graduate certificate in corporate sustainability and innovation from Harvard extension school, the end of this year I will defend my thesis and in May 2021, I will proudly walk the stage with a doctorate in hand. The last four years have been a journey, but I would not change any of the long nights or heavy reading assignments because it has made me better for you.

To say that I just care about this topic is a bit of an understatement. I live and breathe ethical, sustainable, conscious consumerism and deeply care about not only making systems better, more efficient and ultimately empowering to those involved, but I also care about educating others.

It is through education that true empowerment comes, and I want you to be a part of this process and narrative. For a social enterprise to be able to attain sustainable development in all realms – social, economic and environmental – it is and will continue to be a challenge, but the more we educate ourselves, the greater impact we will have on the system as a whole.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will go deeper into this subject of ethical vs. fair trade as well as share some case studies that will allow you to practically apply it to your business or every day conscious consumer choices.

From your overly passionate ethical educator,

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