The first challenge you face when planning to source from fair and ethical makers is to find them. Why are they difficult to locate? Where should I look for them? After many years of importing from Africa, I still face these challenges regularly. The increased world-wide connectivity helps but much groundwork is still needed.
Do they want to connect with traders?
Yes! But many face hurdles to do so. Easy access to huge depositories of information at our fingertips assists in our decision-making and knowledge gathering to deal with new and challenging situations. Our world is large, for the fair and ethical product maker however it is relatively small. They may speak only the local language or have no understanding of computers. They may be excellent at bookkeeping but their understanding of pricing for a wider market is minimal.
It takes a long time to build up trust with a fair and ethical trade partner. Trust in this business relationship works both ways. Not receiving products you paid for in advance is difficult, as is making products which they then cannot sell. Building this relationship takes time and you can start with doing the groundwork on your potential business partner and initiate contact.
How do I find fair and ethical makers?
Fellow fair traders
A fair trade internet search returns fair trade shops, traders and events across the world. I use these results as a resource to locate and discover groups I may like to buy from or promote. Many of these are included in the Fair Trade Find listing. One of the Fair Trade principles is transparency and this includes sharing information on the partner groups you connect with, making this a good method for others to explore them. After all, fair trade is about growth, not hogging groups and products just for yourself. It is important however that this type of research and contact is done ethically. Undercutting a close competitor by sourcing the same product from the same partner group is not ethical.
Several organisations issue fair and ethical trade certification. The most well-known and most established are The Fairtrade System which certifies commodities, and the World Fair Trade Organisation which assesses a business as a whole. In recent years, international co-operations created their own label and certification system to avoid paying premium prices and to obtain control of the complete process from farm to manufactured product. The International Guide to Fair Trade Labels gives excellent insight into the differences and impact of each of these certificates and labels.
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council lists tourism organisations, hotels and tour operators with a focus on sustainability. You can tap into their local knowledge as many have spent years developing relationships in their respective countries. Many also include cultural experiences and these are a good way to explore potential trading partners while in the country, especially as initial contact.
So take the first step to make contact!
Our capacity to take the initial step and connect with a disadvantaged trading partner far exceeds theirs.