Yesterday I attended the Fair Trade Resource Network’s (FTRN) Webinar on Fair Trade and what the future may hold for North America’s Fair Trade movement. The webinar was hosted by Jeff Goldman, FTRN’s Executive Director, and Sean McHugh, the Executive Director of the Canadian Fair Trade Resource Network (CFTRN). Together, Jeff and Sean painted a complete scene of what has happened so far with Fair Trade and what needs to happen in order to effectively move forward.
From the webinar, it is apparent that the Fair Trade movement has grown a great deal in recent years in North America. In Canada, there is a significant push on college campuses for more Fair Trade, and more groups seeking to further the movement. In the United States, there is now a growing interest in domestic Fair Trade. Additionally, while Fair Trade has been greatly about working with small farmers, Fair Trade USA wants to expand Fair Trade to larger cooperatives, and this has sparked a lot of controversy. Clearly, North American Fair Trade is on the move, changing rapidly, but the point that both Jeff and Sean stressed was the need for better communication.
According to Sean, Fair Trade in Canada has up until recently been splintered, with different organizations all working to support Fair Trade but never working together. With CFTRN, communications have opened up a little bit. There is still a need to expand the social movement, but Canada is hoping to build relationships between each of the various groups. In the United States, there has been a lot going on with all of its organizations, especially now that Fair Trade USA is hoping to also work with larger cooperatives. But, this is a move that many groups do not agree with. While there have been some talks to work these issues out, not enough communication has been happening and a common ground has yet to be found. Building relationships between organizations is especially important with the growing number of different Fair Trade certifications out there. There is no one body governing Fair Trade certification, and while so many groups work independently, consumer confusion grows.
The main message that I took from this talk is the importance of…talking! and communicating to build and foster relationships. We need those relationships in order to plow forward, and while we may disagree with one another, we must accept our differences and continue to work toward a Fairer world.
Contributed by Sarah DeMartino, Fair Trade Intern