Does Fair Trade Really Make A Difference?

As fair trade month comes to a close, I wanted to share some thoughts on the merits of fair trade, and share a "success story" that I love from one of my fair trade favorites, Numi Tea

I've blogged about fair trade for well over 4 years now, in some form or another, and I'll admit that I've had my moments of doubt as to whether buying fair trade makes a difference. I've experienced some dishonesty and unethical practices by companies claiming to be "fair trade", and It's left me just a bit jaded (and a VERY intense question-asker when I'm researching a new brand)! 

Here's what I've slowly come to terms with: certifications like the "fair trade" label are good, they help to create a better standard for how workers should be treated... but those certifications are only as good as the action and compassion behind them. Some companies may tweak the numbers or do the bare minimum to qualify as an "ethical" company, while others go above and beyond. My journey as a conscious consumer has now come to the point where instead of just trusting a company when they say "hey, we're ethical", I now look at their track record and the impact on their employees. I'll ask hard questions, like "exactly how much are your workers paid?" and "can you give me specific examples of how your development program has created independence or a healthier lifestyle?".

I look for companies that have taken initiative to create opportunities for a better life, beyond what they're required to do by the certification process. That's why I love the story of Numi's turmeric farmers. Numi wanted to create a line of turmeric teas, but they couldn't find a fair trade supplier. Finally, Numi found a group of farmers in Madagascar who grew the turmeric they needed, and worked with them to set up a fair trade cooperative. Workers have control of the finances of the operation, and have ownership over their own work. Through the farmers' connection with Numi, business has flourished and income has increased. 

Here's where that "above and beyond" piece comes in. When Numi noticed that the rural farming community they'd come to love lacked access to uncontaminated drinking water, they launched an initiative- Together for H2OPE: Madagascar- to raise funds for drinking wells. Numi rallied support around the cause and built 22 wells which serve 3,500 people across 12 villages.

When you listen to Numi's founders and staff members talk about the project, you can sense the genuine excitement and love that have gone into it. Having worked with Numi for several months, I can testify that the people at Numi truly care about people and the planet. That gives me hope, and makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile with my own work and advocacy championing ethical brands. 

Next up, Numi is launching Together for H2OPE: India, hoping to give access to clean water to a group of black tea farmers in India! Follow along with the progress on Numi's blog or by signing up for Numi's newsletter- but first, check out this beautiful celebration video that the Numi team created: 

To celebrate the success of Together for H2OPE: Madagascar, I'm hosting a little instagram giveaway! Head to my instagram, look for this lovely photo, and follow the directions to enter to win Numi's two newest turmeric products (an amazing Turmeric Chai and powdered Turmeric Cocoa) along with a lovely thermal glass mug. Good Luck!