It’s not a question of whether or not the fair trade label has issues. It does. The fair trade movement has become very politicized and has created some unnecessary bureaucratic hoops. However, it is still one of the best ways that large companies seem to be able to have a system in place that honors people at all levels of the supply chain. That is why we associate ourselves with the words fair trade. “Ethical Supply Chain Atlanta” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that is really what this committee’s goal is- to make it easy for Atlanta consumers to purchase products that were fairly sourced and produced without slavery or child labor.
Fair Trade Atlanta takes the approach that the fair trade label is not the only way to ensure this, but because the coffee industry, and other industries commonly associated with fair trade (chocolate, bananas, etc.), is fraught with mistreatment of workers and/or underpayment of farmers, we must ensure in some way that we’re not supporting that mistreatment and underpayment. For example, Beanelogy (a local roaster) coffees are not certified fair trade, but they have documentation that they are sourcing from a farm that uses ethical practices and they pay that farm well for their product. So, Fair Trade Atlanta considers shops that use their coffees to meet the “fair trade” requirement.
Yes, the fair trade label has several flaws. However, items that are actually certified as such by any of the three major fair trade certifying nonprofit organizations do pay a fair price for their coffee. As far as people pretending their certified, the organizations trademark their label and take legal action for people improperly using it. The fair trade statement has nothing to do with the quality, or lack there of, of the product, but rather simply that the workers on the farms are being treated and paid fairly. It is not just about the amount paid to the farmer, but about the conditions for all people who work on the farm.