Corporate social responsibility. Ethical purchasing. Fair trade. Whatever you choose to call it, the production, importing and selling of fair trade is a phenomenon that is continuing to gain momentum here in Canada.
But is the Canadian public as a whole adequately educated and aware of what fair trade is? Is ethical purchasing even a priority for Canadians?
The optimist in me wants to say yes, that having products that are produced in an environmentally responsible way and provides workers with a fair wage are all things that Canadians do care about. Luckily my optimism seems to prevail according to figures published by TransFair USA global sales in of fair trade products has risen 30% in the past decade.
However, how literate is the general public when it comes to understanding what fair trade is and how the labeling system works? Unfortunately the figures found in the ‘Canadian Labeling Perceptions survey’ by Fairtrade Labeling Organization International were not as bright, as 79% of the sample was not familiar with International Fair Trade labels and 68% were not familiar with the Canadian Fair Trade Certified label.
This begs us to ask how these labels can become better associated with the ideals of Fair Trade- the ideals of providing a life of prosperity and dignity for farmers living in developing communities.
What will work? Do we need a flashy marketing campaign? Celebrity endorsement? Do we need to introduce it to the academic curriculum or do we need some other innovative way of creating the behavior change that makes ethical purchasing of greater importance to Canadians?
I know I don’t have the answers but as long as there are people fighting for the cause of promoting fair trade, the potential it has to become more widespread will continue to build.
But for now I’m going to leave you with a media advertisement that ran in the UK promoting the Fairtrade Fortnight this past February (& having spent reading week in the UK I can vouch that this advertisement was everywhere!).
Perhaps it is this type of widespread exposure of fair trade that is needed to produce the change that takes Canadians from liking the idea of corporate social responsibility to actually acting upon it.
Remember life isn’t always fair but what you purchase can be.