Fairtrade Fortnight has just ended, but it case you didn’t notice it was about bananas, chocolate and hot drinks. As the Fairtrade Foundation explains “Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.” The Fairtrade standards, set by Fairtrade International, have minimum social, economic and environmental requirements that producers have to meet, as well as demonstrate developments in farmers organisations and workers’ conditions.
Typically under a fair trade scheme, farmers receive a fixed price for their crop that reflects the sustainable cost of production, plus a premium that their community can invest in education, healthcare, or other ways to improve yields or processing facilities. A fair price is not just a few more pence in pay, but promotes capacity building that creates other opportunities for a community to develop.
Certification schemes are not without their critics, both conceptually, and in terms of their implementation. However, too often, free global trade has been a race to the lowest cost option. In Europe, we operate within regulatory and policy frameworks that protect workers and the environment. Other geographies lack those safety nets. A fair trade alternative offers customers some assurance that goods have been produced in sustainable conditions. That is a long introduction to why Carefully Curated not only supports Fairtrade with a capital ‘F’, but looks for products that are transparent about where, how and by whom their products are made. Mindful of the fact that the price I pay for a product should reflect the true cost of the labour, materials, energy and natural services involved in its manufacture. As Fairtrade Fortnight ends, I thought I would highlight a few fairly traded favourites.
Cotton is a commodity that is has a reasonably well-established organic and fair-trade infrastructure, boosted by the Better Cotton Initiative that was launched in 2005. Organic and fair-trade cotton bed linen is available from John Lewis and other retailers, but for a more colourful use of fair-trade cotton, inspired by the recent sunshine, I picked these all-weather hammocks from Handmade Hammocks made of fair-trade cotton and FSC wooden rods. How I long for a summer evening lounge in one of these double all-weather hammock is priced from £69.99.
I love the colours of these hand-woven linen baskets from Donna Wilson in collaboration with SCP and People of the Sun, a non-profit social enterprise based in Malawi. Using their traditional knowledge, and working with natural materials such dried palm, local artisans in Malawi create bespoke products by hand. People of the Sun connects these artisans with business training, designers and a wider marketplace to build more sustainable businesses that create economic, social and cultural value in Malawi by boosting incomes and preserving traditional skills. Prices start at £27.50 for a place mat, to £150 for the Peaks Linen basket and are available in SCP stores.
Travelling further east, the women of Basha, a social enterprise in Dhaka, Bangladesh make beautiful kantha bedspreads (pictured at the top of the page). In Bengali basha means ‘house’ and asha means ‘hope’, the house of hope enterprise supports victims of domestic violence and sex-traffiking with training and counselling as they rebuild their lives. Once the women are ready, the enterprise provides opportunities for work with educational, health and childcare support. The bedspreads are hand-stitched from vintage saris, embroidered with the maker’s name for £165 are available from the Decorator’s Notebook.
Rattan has made a real comeback, and Emily Readett-Bayley’s natural rattan baskets provide the perfect fireside accessory or toy basket. The baskets are sourced directly from seven village communities who live within a 200.000 hectare rainforest concession in Katingan, Borneo. Rattan’s natural strength has been used for generations to make baskets that are durable even in a tropical climate. As part of a sustainable forest management, the raw rattan is woven by villagers in workshops offering an alternative income to illegal logging, poaching endangered species such as Bornean orangutans, gibbons, clouded leopards and proboscis monkeys or clearing forest for palm oil cultivation. The baskets are available individually or as a set, with prices starting at £25 for the small basket, 38cm x35cm.
For an every day dollop of fair trade, what about this elegant monochrome placemat and coaster set from Shake the Dust (priced at £40)? The set of four placemats and four matching coasters has been handmade from a sustainably-harvested mountain grass, Lutindzi, which is indigenous to the Swazi mountain, and coloured with GOTS-certified dyes (GOTS is the Global Organic Textile Standard which requires a minimum of 70% organic fibres). Gone Rural, the producer, works with 750 artisanal weavers in Swaziland. The weavers are self-employed and receive around half the wholesale price of the goods they make. Profits are invested in health, education, water and sanitation projects. The Artisanal Board provides women with a key role in the defining the future of Gone Rural. It is a venture that provides a sustainable income, preserves traditional crafts and is building skills for the future, and the products are beautiful to boot.
So next time you are browsing the aisles or scrolling through the drop down menu, take a moment to enquire where the object of your desire had a suitably responsible journey to your shopping basket. Retailers and manufacturers should have no reason to be bashful about where their goods come from.
Photocredit: Decorator’s Notebook, Handmade Hammocks, Posh Graffitti, SCP, Shake the Dust