Building a Base of Questioning Consumers
Posted on October 6, 2012 by Fair Trade Town: Chicago
In June 2006, when Chicago Fair Trade launched with twenty four organizations, we felt like real trailblazers. There weren’t other fair trade organizations on a town or city level. There wasn’t a Fair Trade Towns movement in the U.S. Over the years we’ve seen both CFT and the fair trade movement grow. CFT has increased to seventy organizations. The Fair Trade Towns count has reached thirty communities, with many other campaigns in progress. But as we mature as a movement, as more voices come together, we must also face the challenges that a diversity of perspectives creates.
There is currently a broad discussion of fair trade standards and practices nationally and much debate on how best to achieve the goals of reducing global poverty and sustaining the planet. A Fair Trade Stakeholders Council has come together to take the conversation beyond certification and engage a broad sector of the fair trade community in discerning the best path for a growing movement: businesses, faith partners, consumers and non profits. We are grateful to the Fair Trade Resource network for its leadership and regular briefings. To date, the Council has not made recommendations. (Stay informed at www.ftrn.org)
While this discussion continues, CFT will move forward with its mission to educate consumers and increase fair trade businesses in the metro area. Nationally, we can be guided by the fair trade principles agreed upon by Fair Trade Towns. (found at chicagofairtrade.org) And as part of an international movement, we have access to relationships with fair trade producers who visit Chicago, allowing us to learn directly about production and workers’ reality from a face to face exchange. As our members travel to visit producers (as a Board member did this past year) and return to share their account of fair trade banana workers and fair trade apparel production in the Dominican Republic, we can rely on their insights based on personal encounters. Fair trade offers us these direct relationships. Though the fair trade certification discussion continues, we can use the fair trade principles and our international partners as a guide. It is our job to create a broad base of questioning consumers who are part of an international effort to secure fair wages and sustainable production everywhere. Join us!