A guilt-free cup

By Danee Wilson

While most of the attention surrounding fair trade is focused on activities in the south, Trent University professor Gavin Fridell is attempting to increase awareness about fair trade issues on the other side of the hemisphere. The author of Fair Trade Coffee: The Prospects and Pitfalls of Market-Driven Social Justice, was a speaker at the University of Calgary’s Fair Trade Week 2007.

Fridell emphasized that consumer power is limited and is critical of the notion that the industry responds to consumer demands.

“Consumers do not have near perfect information on which to make decisions” said Fridell. “The information they have is under a barrage of corporate advertising. Fair trade challenges the notion that consumers have adequate information.”

According to Fridell, consumers will make more ethical choices if they are aware of where products are made, but fair trade products still rely primarily on affluent consumers.

“The relationship between producer and consumer is not necessarily democratic” he explained. “In fair trade, poor producers remain at the whim of northern consumers.”

Although there has been an impressive growth in fair trade, Fridell emphasized new products typically experience a growth, and he expects the growth to level off.

For individuals looking to make a difference through fair trade, it can be difficult as they can only do so much as consumers.

Fridell suggested that consumers look at what political parties support fair trade policies, and stressed that anyone concerned about social justice support fair trade by purchasing goods or distributing them.

Leave a comment