From fair trade to sustainable chains of production and trade

The term fair trade emerged in Europe as an attempt to introduce justice and solidarity into trade between northern and southern countries. For thousands of producers in southern countries, it has been and remains an excellent opportunity to obtain better quality production, better prices, better working conditions and improved quality of life for them and their families. Fair trade should not be reduced to a simple sales strategy, since it can also drive sustainable local production, decent jobs, equitable relation between the sexes, etc. By promoting the creation of networks and organization between small-scale local producers, placing a higher value on work and environmental protection and appealing to consumers to make responsible purchasing choices part of daily life, it gives a more supportive basis to the relations involved in production, sales and consumption.

Its recent recognition of south-south and north-north trade means that it is also now encompasses the local dimension, refocusing on the local market and incorporating notions such as food sovereignty and security, human rights and environmental protection.

However, neither fair trade, solidarity finance or local currencies can solve all development problems. Every actor in the value chain has to be included. Fair trade producers could start by becoming one of the links in a solidarity-based chain of production that partners institutions and networks promoting the SSE with social enterprises, groups of organized consumers and, in some cases, public policies supporting these initiatives. This would involve actions such as remodelling solidarity-based production chains by giving preference to suppliers who respect solidarity-based and ecological criteria and creating companies where they do not exist upstream using funding from solidarity finance initiatives, until reaching the end consumer.

The Ferias de Consumo (Consumer Fairs) in Venezuela, permanent or travelling fairs of small-scale SSE producers, initiatives to link up consumers in Brazil and the Value Chain Development Program (VCDP) in Asia are all useful ways of producing, distributing and selling SSE goods and services th at affect the final act of consumption, an act that gives consumers a role in their daily choices and their well-being.

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