Should you buy Fair Trade products or buy local? The Fair Trade movement is focused on bringing internationally-produced products (from producers who were paid a certified Fair Trade wage) to markets around the world, primarily North America. The Buy Local movement is focused on supporting local merchants who bring to market locally-produced goods, rather than large multinational corporations who source internationally from dubious sources (rather than certified Fair Trade sources). If you are of a mind to support both Fair Trade and Buy Local, which one should take precedence?
The two are not mutually exclusive. Take our Fair Trade sports balls, for instance. There are no domestic producers of sports balls, except the producer of the NFL SuperBowl football. And they make footballs just for the SuperBowl; that’s it.
Many certified Fair Trade products are in this same category; these products are not made here in North America (e.g. tea, cocoa). So every time a new local retailer starts carrying our internationally-made certified Fair Trade products, that is another channel for folks to support both Fair Trade and Buy Local.
In other words, buying Fair Trade means you are not buying from a mega-corporation that is polluting the planet, exploiting workers, or driving “mom and pop” stores out of business. The people who sell Fair Trade merchandise are the folks down on the corner, whether it be a block away from you or on the other side of the world.
I like to support my local retailers whenever I can. If I can’t find something in one of our local stores, I stop and ask myself if I really need that item.
So if you’re stuck in a quandary about which cause to support, no worries. It is possible to buy most Fair Trade products from local merchants so you are therefore supporting the Buy Local movement at the same time!