Fairtrade and Sustainable Development

Since the 1950s, the capitalist economic system has experienced accelerated growth, with extremely negative environmental consequences, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in global warming and climate change, which is currently the main threat facing humanity.

At the same time, since its pioneering experiences in the second post-war period, the key message of the Fair Trade movement has been clear: by promoting alternative and solidarity-based patterns of production and consumption, we will achieve, through trade, a more inclusive, fair and sustainable development.

Three years after the creation of the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), in 2000, the United Nations agreed on the eight “Millennium Development Goals” (MDGs); these represented a global call to focus government and cooperation efforts towards the achievement of minimum goals related to poverty, hunger, education, health, among other aspects of development.

In September 2015, the United Nations once again presented the world with a global call to defend the sustainability of our civilization: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals mark a global commitment that also means a profound change in industrial and post-industrial societies, whose production patterns have caused the spectacular anthropogenic warming of recent decades.

CLAC and sustainable development

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and CLAC jointly published the book: The Contribution of Fair Trade to Sustainable Development. This document examines the movement’s contributions to achieving more inclusive and sustainable development.

Fair Trade is an important ally in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which it makes a major contribution are detailed below:

Certainly, to SDG 1 (Eradicate poverty in all its forms worldwide), because in a general way a trade with more equity is the channel through which the work of small producers and workers, agricultural and artisans, who represent the weak ring in the supply chain and live in communities impoverished by national and global economic dynamics, is dignified.

To SDG 2 (End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture)), recognizing that 70% of the world’s population (according to FAO estimates) depends on small-scale agriculture, many fair trade small producer organizations are investing the Fairtrade Premium in productive diversification processes that ensure better land use, substantial improvements in diets and food sovereignty for rural communities.

Fair trade relationships also positively influence family dynamics (SDG 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), with gender equity and the empowerment of women and youth being fundamental pillars of the movement. The Fairtrade system is encouraging the active participation of women in producer and worker organizations.

Another goal where the contributions of fair trade are evident is SDG 8 (Promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all): Fairtrade standards, based on ILO conventions, allow rural workers in certified private companies to organize and negotiate better pay and working conditions.

From Latin America and the Caribbean, the most unequal continent in the world (despite not being the poorest), we once again underline the enormous contribution of fair trade in reducing inequalities, both within countries (e.g., between urban and rural areas) and between countries (SDG 10).

Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG 12) has always been a major challenge for the movement; the creation of a “multi-stakeholder” system in which all the various levels of the production and trade chain have stakeholders committed to, and directly involved in, fair trade relations is fundamental to joining forces.

SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts) is one of the most relevant to small-scale farmers, who are the first to be affected by drastic changes in the climate. Fairtrade standards promote more efficient use of energy, soil, water, and natural resources, as well as a reduction of pesticides and other chemical fertilizers.


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