31 Jul, 2009 | Written by Anupa Mueller
Today we make our 2nd quarter 2009 payments to each estate from which we purchase Fair Trade teas. The way it works is that we tally all Fair Trade activities during a quarter and then send in the Fair Trade contributions to a specially-established account for each estate. I often hear derogatory comments about Fair Trade and similar concepts. The arguments are many - the money never gets to the workers, how do we know how it is spent, it's all a game, it's too complicated, it's too arduous, it's yet another ploy to separate us from our money. The part I agree with wholeheartedly is that yes, it's complicated and arduous. Whoever thought of this construct should have a plaque on their wall that says, "Simplify". But until then, this is what we have. I've seen Fair Trade at work and I can attest to the fact that when I transfer the premiums to each estate, it goes into a bank account operated by a NGO (non-governmental organization) and not to the estate. Workers, by and large, do get to decide how this money is spent. Fair Trade is not the only way to advance the well-being of workers. Sometimes, companies sponsor individual projects and there are other programs such as Ethical Tea Partnership. Here is one example of these funds at work - a hand-made paper cottage industry where previously unemployed women now make cartons, business cards, book marks, notebooks and shopping bags. (When you buy Fair Trade, a portion of your purchase price - social premium - goes back to the workers of that tea estate).