Fair Trade and Design
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade opposed to free trade, is the exporting of goods where the producers are given a fair and just price for the produce they make and export.
“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade Organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”
(Fair Trade Advocacy Office, 2010)
It was agreed in December of 2001 by the four major Fair Trade networks, Fairtrade Labelling Organization International (FLO), European Fair Trade Association (EFTA), Network of European Worldshops (NEWS) and World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), that this statement would define and clearly show what they stood for.
Brief History of Fair Trade
Fair Trade has been around since the early 1940’s. It’s been said that it first came about by non-profit religious organisations and orientated in the United States. Originally, handcrafts products were the typical item being sold, the organisation wasn’t as global as it is today and it was normally people within North America itself, who were regarded as ‘disfavoured people’. Edna Ruth Byler is credited to be the first Fair Trader (Preheim, 1986). It was in 1940 when she first discovered some women in Puerto Rico living in poverty. These women were able to produce high quality linen needlework. But it wasn’t until 1946 till she arranged to take these women’s work to a Mennonite world conference in Switzerland and sold them and hence became the first person to officially trade fairly. Edna Ruth Byler then went on to spend a lot of time and effort selling produce from her car boot, but in Pennsylvania, United States of America 1958, along side with Ruth Lederach, they were able to open their first shop. From 1968 onwards, what Edna Ruth Byler started became known as ‘SELFHELP: Crafts of the world’ and then in 1972 the first American ‘world shop’ opened in Bluffton (Preheim, 1986). By 1996 the business became successful, and the line of shops are now better know as ‘Ten Thousand Villages’ (Fish, 2008).
It wasn’t until 1985 that the term Fair Trade was used, apposed to ‘Alternative trade’ or ‘Alternative commerce’. This is due to Michael Barrett Brown (DeCarlo, 2007), who used it during a Trade and Technology Conference in London.
‘Max Havelaar’ was the first Fairtrade label to be launched. It was in 1988 that under the initiative of the Dutch development agency Solidaridad, that the first coffee product was sold in Dutch stores. Although ‘Max Havelaar’ isn’t an actual person (in fact a fictional character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies), the initiative appealed to people and was so successful that further stores were opened all over Europe and North America (Fairtrade Foundation, 2010). Today, Max Havelaar falls under the umbrella of something bigger. As of 1997, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was created to united all the labelling initiatives. FLO maintains standards and certification and in 2002 it launched the FLO mark, which is an internationally recognised mark. Today FLO is split into two organisations. In 2004 FLO divided to become FLO International, who set the Fairtrade standards and help give businesses the support they need. And FLO-CERT, who goes out to producers, inspects their workshops and it is them who have the power to certify the produce of the organisations. Each year more and more initiatives are joining FLO; in 2007 there was an addition of 21 (Fairtrade Foundation, 2010).
There are three more major Fair Trade networks. World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), who were initiated in 1989 and differ from the FLO because their membership is only for producers that are 100%: rather it’s the producers that are awarded the WFTO Fair Trade mark and not just the product, unlike the FLO (World Fair Trade Organization, 2010). European Fair Trade Association (EFTA), although unofficially established in 1987 it gained formal status in 1990 (Kocken, 2006). The aim of the EFTA is to support all its organisations, providing them with the tools and things they need to make it possible. They also encouraging these member organisations to cooperate and coordinate. The forth major Fair Trade network is the Network of European Worldshops (NEWS). NEWS was created in 1994 and is an association of Fair Trade shops with over 2,500 shops in Europe alone (Suma, 2010).
Fair Trade and Design
A lot of people are unaware of how big the Fair Trade network is. People tend to only come into contact with Fairtrade and Fair Trade products through the main high street retailers like Sainsbury’s, who in 2009, completely converted all their own branded ground and roast coffees to Fairtrade producers (Fairtrade Foundation, 2010). These Sainsbury’s coffees now have the FLO Certificated Mark on their packaging. The truth behind Fair Trade is that it’s bigger and broader than most people are aware. Fair Trade as a ‘Service Design’ does so much more than just stamp the Fairtrade logo onto the packaging of a product.
The Fair Trade family or network, was designed to serve the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America (the stakeholders) and provide a fair service and equal opportunities for them as producers to be able to export to developed countries. Service Design is only now just being seen as a discipline within its own right. The activity of designing a service was considered to fall under the domains of marketing and management disciplines (Shostack, 1982). Because Service Design is a relatively new course and not really taught commonly, it allows some graduate design students from other areas of the discipline to continue study and apply.
Breaking down the Fair Trade service, you can see the roles of the individual organisations, and it is possible to see how the things being exported from these developing countries have reached our shelves. But you can also see the management and communication between the networks, each organisation has a role to play and it’s very important that they work in conjunction with each other as a joint initiative. The Fair Trade service is designed to have procedures and schedules. It’s important to have a time-line or storyboard, something to maintain order, to keep to regulations.
Features of a design service cover things like branding, packaging, advertisements, promotional events and marketing. Branding and packaging are both very important to a Fair Trade product. For it to stand out like a Fair Trade product it has to meet the public’s perception as a Fair Trade product. Whether it has the FLO or WFTO mark, it is a certified Fair Trade product. Both these logos are designed to be unique and recognisable. As a designer designing a logo, it’s important to combine the use of imagery and typography in a way they compliment each other. Fair Trade also use posters and unique things like giant bananas as means to advertise their products or just to remind consumers that they have a choice, in that they too can help people in developing countries. That by buying their produce, you are helping them earn a better and fair wage.
Blume, D., (2007). Tea Picking Family. [Photograph] Available at: <http://www.flickr.com/photos/kioko/500085377/in/set-72157620688929996> [Accessed: 05 September]
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World Fair Trade Organization, (2010). About WFTO. [Online] Avalible at: <http://www.wfto.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=889&Itemid=290> [Accessed: 04 September]
World Fair Trade Oranization, (2004). World Fair Trade Organization logo [Online Image] Available at: <http://www.wfto.com> [Accessed on 05 September 2010]