Fair trade, once the pet cause of But are the cost-benefits of the
social activists, has gone main- practice as good as advertised? The
stream. As concepts like global jury is still out.
awareness and social responsibil- Europe and the United States ac-ity penetrate the mass consumer count for virtually all fair trade sales.
market, “fair trade” labels have spread In the United States, that means cof-beyond gourmet shops to neighbor- fee. In 2006, Starbucks accounted for
hood grocery stores and supermarket more than a quarter of the fair trade-aisles. Wide acceptance of the idea certified coffee sold in the United
that consumers can also help oth- States. Dunkin’ Donuts announced
ers with their purchases is chang- in 2003 that it would use only fair
ing the way we shop, drink and eat. trade-certified coffee in its espresso
With fair trade-labeled goods, such drinks, and some Sam’s Clubs (
Wal-as coffee, the goal is to raise the in- mart) have also begun to offer fair
comes of small producers in devel- trade coffee and bananas.
oping countries by guaranteeing a Believers in free trade argue, how-
“fair price” for their goods. ever, that the central tenets of fair
trade—offering above-market and
distort markets by stimulating increased production out of proportion
CAN FAIR TRADE REALLY DELIVER
ON ITS PROMISE OF MORE INCOME
TO POOR PRODUCERS?
SAVING THE WORLD