Is Fairtrade just Feel-Good-Trade? Questions which needs answers!

Ever since I received a link to the article from the Jubilee Centre in England I have kept the contend of this article to myself since I realize that we are about to open a Fair Trade shop in the city of Stockholm. As a church we have adopted to only serve Fair Trade coffee and tea and so, slowly but surely, we are trying to implement what we believe. Because I am an advocate for justice and righteousness. I quote from their material:

It is unusual for Christians to adopt a skeptical position with regards to Fairtrade. After all, aren’t we supposed to take a stand for justice, righteousness, and fairness? Somewhat expectedly, therefore, our February blog comment questioning the Fairtrade Foundation, reproduced in our quarterly Engage newsletter, has provoked a mixture of disappointment, surprise, and confusion. The plea of one letter writer encapsulates the exasperation felt by many, “I should like to know what the alternative is for those of us who genuinely want to help.”

Helpfully, a report published in February by the Adam Smith Institute, Unfair Trade, provides an answer to this question, first explaining in more detail why, “for all its good intentions, Fairtrade is not fair”:

It is therefore that I want to ask all of you who know more about Fair Trade to check the enclosed information from the Jubilee Centre which I highly respect. Actually, their other material, which is tremendously challenging, has been used by God to help form my thinking and convictions in different areas of life.

So, I ask you to consider the information and to address this issue in depth by giving me your side of the coin, your perspective, and even more so, the information you can give me to help answer the important questions that are asked.

I have not made up my mind about this matter… and am therefore open to any trust-worthy input and source!

I hope you can help me! Is Fair Trade Stockholm interested in answering some of these questions?

John van Dinther


9 responses to “Is Fairtrade just Feel-Good-Trade? Questions which needs answers!

  1. Jag var medlem i New Life när vi röstade igenom att vi skulle ha rättvisemärkt kaffe. Jag minns att det bara var jag och budgetansvarig (minns inte vad hon heter nu) som inte räckte upp våra händer. Rättvisemärkt låter ju väldigt bra, men jag har alltid varit skeptisk – egentligen mest för att jag känt på mig från början att Rättvisemärkt handlar om politik och ett motstånd mot fria marknadskrafter, och att jag själv har en övertygelse om att fria marknadskrafter är bra för att ta människor ur fattigdom. Jag tror att det är det vi ser i Asien. Vi ser mycket annat också som utvecklar sig i den moderna världen, men jag tror det finns mycket som bara Jesus är svaret på och där vi inte bör delegera ansvaret till politiska rörelser.
    Här finns en timbro-rapport angående Rättvisemärkt som jag tycker är väl värd att läsa:
    Gud välsigne dig!

  2. Thank you Theresia for your comment! I am surprised to not hear any voices from the Fair Trade organizations sharing some hard facts about this. The link that you gave was an extensive product of research and writing which affirms the English observations which I addressed in my blog. In the conclusive part of their paper they say: It is a very ineffective way to try to pass on money through the Fair Trade system. As much as 80% of the extra money when buying FT is eaten before it reaches the producers of the products, which is far away from the 0% as promised!…


    Det är mycket ineffektivt att försöka förmedla pengar genom Rättvisemärkts system. Så mycket som 80 procent av de extra kronor som en konsument lägger på att köpa rättvisemärkt kan vara borta innan de når producenten! Det är långt ifrån de 0 procent som Rättvisemärkt utlovar.

  3. Jag är glad att du tog upp den här frågan, som jag tycker är väldigt viktig, eftersom det blivit så självklart inom kyrkan att rättvisemärkt är bra. Om det inte alls är bra har vi tappat en hel del trovärdighet genom det här.

  4. Det här är en intressant diskussion som pågått ett tag. Jag gjorde ett uppslag för Världen idag för någon månad sedan om Timbros rapport och Rättvisemärkts svar på kritiken, du kan läsa den

    Jag skrev också en analys som gick vid sidan om artikeln. Den finns här:

    Jag har också en artikel från The Economist som tar upp hela den här problematiken som du nämner John. Säg till om du vill ha den.

  5. Thanks all you guys for the insights, honestly, I hadn’t thought about this deeply enough, this is helpful, what can we propose, then?

  6. Jacob, I really would like to get the article you mentioned. Please and thanks,

  7. I was at the Christian Resources Exhibition last week and was impressed with Kingdom Coffee. They work with at least 150 churches to promote “ethical fair trade” as a fairer alternative to the “fairtrade” brand.

  8. hej,
    utan att ha några “hårda siffror” så väljer jag hellre fair-trade – men det handlar väl ändå om en intention – syftet med vanliga marknadsekonomin och handel är att tjäna pengar, medan syftet med fair-trade är att handla under värdiga former som även gynnar producenten. Det kan också handla om att gynna miljövänlig produktion och andra material, tex så finns det nu T-shirts tillverkade av bambu, som dessutom är perfekt material att ha på sig,

  9. Hey there!
    Nice to find your blog and this entry listed at the end of mine somehow.

    I spent a lot of the first part of last year researching fair trade, and read the Adam Smith Institute article you listed above. I also researched the Adam Smith Institute (including reading beyond wikipedia, but it remains a good place to start):

    One of their article’s main ‘references’ listed at the end of one page is to a similary right-wing, openly free-market online magazine:

    Expecting people from this perspective to be supportive of fair trade practices is asking a bit much, don’t you think? Indeed, the line within the whole article which rings clearest and loudest with any semblence of truth is near the end of the final section:

    “The consumer-friendly packaging belies a long-term political agenda that is
    antagonistic to free trade, and therefore damaging to the best hope we have
    for an end to human poverty.”

    The truth herein is not in its accuracy, but in its portrayal of the opinion and mind-set of those who believe as such. They feel threatened by the rapid rise in popularity of the fair trade phenomenon, and so of course they will present a coordinated response.

    Section 4 similarly ends with the words:

    “Fair trade, ultimately, is not fair.”

    Of course it’s not completely ‘fair’… but what on earth IS ‘fairness’…?! They don’t define it exactly, and so they ‘appropriate’ the word for their own meaning. What they are NOT telling you is that fair trade IS a lot MORE fair than ‘free trade’.

    Neither system is perfect:
    both are forms of capitalism which somewhat fetishize consumerism and luxury products; both have further hidden costs such as environmental impact in international transport, let alone production. And yet you’ll find that a greater proportion of fair trade products are also organic. And, to address this issue is to dilute the focus of this topic, which is one of the strategies of that article.

    In section 3 for example, it talks about Fairtrade, the Fair Trade Agenda, and fair trade. It takes a high level of commitment to research and understand the difference, and then to read and understand that article fully. They are purposefully trying to make it seem more complicated than it is. The article also over-simplifies, and seeks to villify, or make all fair trade seem bad, by suggesting that ‘it’ opposes choice. This is just complete nonsense.

    For more on the whole issue, I recommend starting with the discussion starters on all the fair trade links you’ll find, including the debates for and against, on wikipedia. I’m happy to chat more later, too. Please PM me if you wish.

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