The 9 Principles of Fair Trade
- Mata Traders
- 01 Oct, 2021
Fair trade organizations require commitments. Commitments to our producer partners, commitments to our customers, and commitments to our company. As members of the Fair Trade Federation, our passion for people over profits finds its framework in the format of the FTF's Principles of Fair Trade.
What better time than Fair Trade Month to familiarize you all with the details of our dedication to fair trade? We go through each of the 9 Principles practiced by businesses in the FTF, below.
The Nine Principles of Fair Trade
Create Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers
Our partners employ producers of various backgrounds and skill levels, providing them with any needed training and the support and tools to succeed.
Develop Transparent & Accountable Relationships
Open communication with producers and customers is key. During the pandemic, this was especially important, as we needed to keep each other informed of any limitations, schedule restraints, or issues faced during lockdowns.
A huge part of this promise is maintaining long term relationships with producer groups. We’re not going to change our suppliers due to finding cheaper production elsewhere, or changing fashion trends. We grow together, improving product and solving problems alongside our trading partners.
Five fair trade producer groups make all Mata Traders apparel and jewelry. There are differences between them, but most are organizations that offer more than safe and fair employment for their members. Artisans’ training includes the skills needed for their work (like sewing), but also encompasses training in life skills and continuing education in other areas - like nutrition, computer training, and financial literacy. They’re doing the production work, but are also taking a holistic approach to making change in their communities, providing assistance during crises, healthcare clinics, and childhood education and development. From Mata, they have the commitment that we’ll return to them every season with the goal of maintaining or increasing our orders.
Promote Fair Trade
The only way to shift the priorities of a well-established and massive garment industry is to push consumers to learn more, and take action to support companies who are headed in the right direction.
Pay Promptly and Fairly
This principle is hugely important as it ensures fair wages, but it also corrects a power imbalance all too prevalent in the industry: when producers are paid. It is common for a buyer’s purchase terms to allow delayed payment for goods until 30, 60, or 90 days after receiving their product, leaving the producer vulnerable after having paid for materials and investing hours of work.
Fair trade corrects this by product being paid for up-front. With Mata’s producer groups, we pay 50% upon ordering and 50% when we receive the product. So, before any sales have been made, the artisans have been paid 100%, allowing them to purchase materials before production, and shifting the risk to us if items don’t sell.
Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions
In the increasingly cheap fast fashion industry, you’re more likely to find poorly maintained factories and demanding schedules than artisans with agency over their work.
FTF members support workplaces free of discrimination, harassment, and forced labor, in spaces where producers participate in decision-making. Many organized as cooperatives to allow for profit sharing, our partner organizations often have artisans hold board seats, assuring their voices and concerns are represented.
These groups are also supportive workplaces for women in particular. Three of our apparel producers are women’s cooperatives, and what we’ve seen and heard from them is that the workplace is one that is truly supportive of women. They are encouraged to grow and take on leadership roles within the group.
Respect Cultural Identity
We celebrate diversity, honor Indian and Nepali handicrafts, and respect the cultural identity of all of our artisan partners.
Cultivate Environmental Stewardship
We encourage the responsible use of resources and eco-friendly production. Some of our partner producers are making great strides in environmental efforts, moving their facilities to solar energy and using natural dyes where possible. Unused or scrap fabric is turned into tote and jewelry bags, and we're continuing to make sustainable improvements wherever possible.
Ensure the Rights of Children
FTF members never use exploitative child labor, a very common practice in the unregulated handicraft industry, particularly jewelry making – their small hands are ideal for assembling small pieces. Fair trade can actually benefit children - we have heard from many women that income from their work is put toward their children’s education.
Our producer partners are essential to Mata's growth and success over the years, and we value our mutual commitment to these principles. This ensures a long lasting relationship that continues to grow each year alongside the demand for ethical goods.