Observations

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RAPAPORT… Fair Trade is a term that has recently been bandied about quite freely in the jewelry industry. So what exactly is Fair Trade? In its truest meaning, Fair Trade is a certification process given to a variety of agricultural products that meet a set of criteria. In the U.S., the only products currently Fair Trade Certified™ are coffee, cocoa and chocolate, tea and herbs, fresh fruit, flowers, sugar, rice and vanilla. A U.S.– based organization, TransFair USA licenses over 600 companies to use the Fair Trade Certified label on agricultural products that meet international Fair Trade standards.

Those standards include fair prices, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organizations, community development and environmental sustainability. TransFair USA, a nonprofit organization, is the only independent, third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. Using a strict auditing system, it monitors manufacturers and importers to be sure that the criteria are met. Through its auditing system, TransFair USA ensures sustainable development and community empowerment by promoting an equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.

TransFair USA is a member of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), an association of producer networks and 20 labeling initiatives. FLO, based in Germany, is one of a group of four international organizations that developed the definition of Fair Trade.

According to FLO, as of 2006, the Fair Trade market was $2.25 billion (1.6 billion euros) globally, a 41 percent year-to-year increase over 2005. The FLO website states that there are more than 1.4 million producers and seven million people benefiting from Fair Trade globally.

While there are currently no products that are Fair Trade Certified in the jewelry industry, there is growing concern about ethical trading, which differs from Fair Trade. Ethical trading is defined by Fair Trade organizations as companies that are involved in the process of trying to ensure that the basic labor rights of the employees of their third-world suppliers from developing nations are respected. Increasingly, more consumers are concerning themselves with socially responsible practices and more companies in the jewelry industry are rising to the challenge of supplying those consumers with a product they can feel good about (see related article, page 196). For more information on Fair Trade, visit transfairusa.org or fairtrade.net.

Amber Michelle
Editor-in-Chief

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