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Global Issues

Learn about the Global Issues many farmers and workers face worldwide, and how Fairtrade works to tackle them.

How Fairtrade makes a difference

Buying Fairtrade means you are helping to combat very serious global issues. Many of these issues share a single root cause – and that’s extreme poverty. Fairtrade certification offers hope and the promise of change. It gives farmers and workers a better income and the power to make their own choices. With each Fairtrade purchase, you’re supporting our work to alleviate the issues covered below, and make a real difference to lives across the world.

Gender Equality

The gender gap continues to be a serious global issue. While we are making progress every day, there continues to be a great divide in the opportunities and rights women can access compared with their male counterparts. 

For women in agriculture of developing countries, life can be particularly tough. Because of local laws in many countries and/or society’s expectations, it can be harder for women to earn a fair income, own land or have a say in the future of their cooperatives or communities. While women make up roughly 43 per cent of the global agricultural labour force and produce 60-80 per cent of the world’s food supply, they make up only 10-20 per cent of landowners in developing countries. This inequality in land ownership can have some pretty far-reaching effects, not just on women but for their children and the wider community. This can be anything from exclusion during local meetings to doing international trade deals where the varying needs of men and women are not considered because quite simply, the women are not in attendance. It can also prevent them from opportunities to take on leadership roles. 

The goal of Fairtrade is to make sure women in producer communities are represented, their voices are heard, and they are empowered to access Fairtrade benefits.

So how is Fairtrade working towards equity? Fairtrade has embedded gender equality into our programs. This means, to be a Fairtrade producer there are strict rules and regulations that stamp out bias and discrimination based purely on gender. We work with farmers to implement gender policies and goals. A producer organisation that doesn’t support equality cannot be Fairtrade certified. 

We want women to be empowered to increase their participation in the governance process, to participate in workshops such as leadership programs and to get savvy when it comes to market info, getting credit and improving how they farm.

Find out more on our Gender Equality page.

Environment

It is without question that we have a climate crisis on our hands. Droughts, natural disasters and extinction of plants and animals affects us all. For agricultural sectors like tea, cocoa and coffee, the farmers are already feeling the pinch and it is only expected to get worse. In 2016, the A Brewing Storm report found that by 2050, increased temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns are projected to cut the area suitable for coffee in half. Deforestation is also a major issue, with farmland being responsible for the majority of the world’s forest loss. 

At Fairtrade, environmental protection and sustainable production practices are ingrained in what we do. The role of Fairtrade is to support producer organisations to identify climate-friendly actions that will both enable the farmers to reduce their footprint while also benefiting their business. 

To be part of a Fairtrade certified producer organisation farmer members must strive to improve soil and water quality, manage pests, avoid using harmful chemicals, effectively manage waste, reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and protect biodiversity. 

That’s a lot of work, right – here’s how we support this:

Fairtrade provides education, training and opportunities for development projects in climate adaptation and carbon credit programs. The Fairtrade Premium is often used to finance environmental actions such as tree planting and improvements in water management. Being part of a cooperative also makes this easier for the producers – it’s strength and power in numbers. 

Fairtrade Standards also prohibit the felling of forests of high conservation value. Cooperatives need to establish a continuous process to map risk areas, raise the farmers’ climate awareness and promote climate-friendly production methods.

Fair Pay

Everyone deserves fair pay, right? While it seems a no-brainer to us, millions of farmers and workers in developing countries earn below the international poverty line. All this does is perpetuate a cycle of inequality, child labour and various forms of modern slavery.  

Fairtrade provides two critical mechanisms to ensure farmers get a fair amount for their crop. The first is the Fairtrade Minimum Price: a safety net for small-scale farmers when prices crash, preventing a sale at ‘below cost’ price scenario. Conversely, when market prices rise, farmers receive the higher market price – the minimum price doesn’t get in the way, it is simply a back-up when needed. Fairtrade is the only certification scheme that offers this price protection for farmers. Then there is the Fairtrade Premium: an additional sum of money to be paid on top of the selling price. This goes into a communal fund for farmers and workers to use. They decide democratically how to use the money – be that for their community, economic or environmental benefit.

Sustainable Development Goals

Welcome to the ethos behind Fairtrade’s mission: to end poverty “in all its forms, everywhere” and leave no one behind. 

Sadly, the reality is that more than 780 million people still live below the international poverty line. While the scale of the problem is huge it also represents an opportunity to improve the lives of all the farmers and workers who fall into this category. 

Formally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 global goals designed to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030. It is safe to say they each overlap with farming and food in some way, covering issues like climate change, education and drinking water – to name just a few. 

But this all feels like a pretty huge problem right? Where do you start? This is where Fairtrade comes in. We have prioritised goals that are most closely linked to our work. Find out more on our page addressing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Eliminating poverty is a team effort: for individuals, business and government. Be a part of the team simply by looking for the Fairtrade Mark when you shop!

Modern Slavery

It doesn’t sound good, and it’s not. While slavery might cast your mind back to the history books, there is a very real and ever-present version of slavery that affects 45 million people in 167 countries today* 

It is exploitation in its cruelest form; from human trafficking and forced labour to unfair practices within supply chains of many of the items that we use or consume every day such as chocolate, cotton, electronics, footwear and coffee. The lack of transparency and scale of the problem makes it very difficult for your average consumer to avoid their role in it all. A company could easily be enabling some form of modern slavery without even realising it. 

While this might be hard to stomach, there is a simple and very effective way to help. With Fairtrade’s work spanning more than 30 years, we continue to fight poverty, discrimination, exploitation, a lack of transparency and power imbalances – the root causes of modern slavery. 

    • For consumers: look for the Fairtrade Mark. This means that a farmer or a worker, as well as all operators in the all operators in the supply chain, adhere to the Fairtrade Standards, a process that ensures transparency throughout the supply chain and is externally audited. The Mark also means farmers have received a fairer price, thanks to the Fairtrade Minimum Price, and access to the Fairtrade Premium, a fixed additional amount of money that provides farmers and workers with additional money to invest in improving the quality of their businesses and communities. The Premium is empowerment. 
    • For businesses: we offer unique insights and capability to help businesses improve their supply chains and work to counter modern slavery. Our system is built on rigorous standards that are transparent, publicly available and apply to all operators in the supply chain. 
    • For producers: we support producer communities to establish a youth-inclusive, community-based monitoring and remediation system. We also connect companies with producers, to invest back into the community and tackle forced labour issues.

* Source: globalslaveryindex.org

Child Labour

Child labour remains a complex and heartbreaking truth. It is estimated that 152 million children are still in child labour, 70 percent of which are in agriculture. Being forced to work at such an early age robs them of a childhood, an education, proper care and in some cases, puts their health at risk. The root cause is poverty. When families are not able to earn a decent living from their crops, and youth lack decent employment opportunities, ending child labour remains very difficult. For a family faced with poverty and hunger, there is often little choice. 

Fairtrade is committed to fighting the root causes of child labour and preventing abuse and exploitation of children. We specifically choose to work in regions (and products) with a known risk of child labour because this is simply where the most work is needed. 

But let’s be clear and transparent – no one can provide a 100 percent guarantee that a product is free of child labour. What we can guarantee is that if our partners fail to have the right systems in place we will undertake the following actions: 

  • Immediately implement the appropriate remediation procedures 
  • Work with national child protection agencies to ensure children’s long-term wellbeing and safety 
  • Empower producer organisations to understand and manage this complex issue and;
  • strengthen their programs and systems to prevent and, if found, address child labour. 

Fairtrade’s work does not stop there. We need to address the wider causes of abuse and violence against children; to support them and their communities to take action. This includes workshops and focus groups, community-based monitoring, collaboration with governments and NGOs. 

WATCH: Our Sustainable Development Goals

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Want to help?

Buying a product with the Fairtrade Mark will help tackle poverty; the underlying cause of child labour and enable Fairtrade to keep offering producers organisations the support outlined above.

Our commitment

  • Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand is committed to the inclusion and representation of those who are vulnerable and those who are affected by the intersecting drivers of marginalisation and exclusion, including but not restricted to race, religion, ethnicity, indigeneity, disability, age, displacement, caste, gender, gender identity, sexuality, sexual orientation, poverty, class and socio-economic status.
  • Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand is committed to human rights. Human rights are for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, indigeneity, disability, age, displacement, caste, gender, gender identity, sexuality, sexual orientation, poverty, class or socio-economic status.