The State of Fair Trade in India – Part 2
… beginning of Part 2.
Fair Trade cotton, Fair Trade fashion
A PROFIT for India
Fair Trade is mostly known for farming products such as chocolate, coffee or the tea grown in India. But much of the cotton grown in the world comes from India. That’s what we want to shed light on today.
And in comes PROFIT in 2010: a project funded by the European Commission, Belgium Technical Cooperation, the interchurch organisation for development cooperation (ICCO), grant-making trusts, and donations from generous individuals. With a population of over 1 billion, and a growing middle class, India offers a huge opportunity for poor producers and this project looked to open the flood gates to show what Fair Trade was all about. The project was very successful. It received strong and high-profile support within India, from Bollywood actors to fashion designers and had strong impact that has included:
- An independent organisation, Shop for Change, was established to implement Indian fair trade standards.
- A certification system was developed for farmers, artisans, and companies against a set of social and environmental standards, beginning with cotton. The standards were developed by Indian stakaholders specifically for the Indian context.
- The standards were finalised and certification of three producer organisations covering 2400 cotton farmers was completed.
- The first Indian fair trade certified products (t-shirts and high-end women’s wear) went on sale early in 2010 and can be found in a lot of retail stores.
- The initial launch benefitted 5,300 cotton farmers and their families. However, the initiative will cover more producers as it is rolled out to cover more products in the next few years. In the medium term these activities will benefit over 400,000 producers. With an average family size of 5 this will benefit about 2 million poor people.
Fair Trade is finally started to be seen as “the” tool to attain sustainability in consumption and environmental balance. It helps consumers to give due consideration to the development needs of the more marginalized, while still taking sound purchasing decisions for things one needs to buy anyways. For marginalized producers (artisans & farmers), it is a true opportunity to earn dignified income and attain overall development for them, their families and their communities.
Fair Trade and the clothing industry
I know that Bangladesh is not India. But I also know that it used to be the same country and that overall, they are very close cousins. After rana Plaza, it is still important to talk about fast fashion, the importance of Fair Trade as a possible solution for preventing these horrific events in the future.
That’s how I see it related Fair Trade. According to TriplePundits.com ”the goal with fair trade cotton is to empower individual small-scale producers by promoting social, economic, and environmental development within their producer organization. Proponents of the movement developed initiatives such as Fair Trade Minimum Price and Fair Trade Premium which empowered farmers by guaranteeing a minimum price for their cotton as well as educating them about safe and sustainable ways to grow cotton.”
So, it’s Fair Tarde for cotton, plain and simple. If brands were forced to deal with certified Fair Trade cotton producers, they would not destroy directly or indirectly the lives of 1000 of cotton farmers and it would encourage the entire market to do things better. Good ethical clothing does not have to come with a Prada price tag. Amercian Apparel founder Dov Charney has been doing several media interviews lately to talk about just this issue. The article from TriplePundits also informs says that over 100,000 small cotton farmers in India and China have committed suicide since in the last 10 years due to the need to the rising costs of cotton farming.
Fashion does not have to come at the price that is being paid in Asia because we want more clothes, more often, for cheaper. We can do this more responsibly.
The international rise of Fair Trade
Here is what I think about this:
I personally believe that we need to encourage Fair Trade all over the world (of course) but especially in India. India will set the tone for the rest of the world. For bangladesh and the Rana Plaza disaster, for the global demand of Fair Trade fashion and other products, for decency. With over 1 billion consumers and many Fair Trade principles adhering producers, organizations and projects like PROFIT, the WFTO Asia, the FTF-I and companies like VavaVida just to name a few, we have the potential to set the global ethical labor mores and ethics of the second half of the 21st century.
So let’s do it…