The Golden Rule in Economics: Fair Trade

 In Fair Trade, News

As part of Fair Trade Awareness Month in October, we are featuring articles by some amazing advocates in the Fair Trade movement. Our first installment is from John Klock, the associate executive director for commonGood, a faith-grounded, grassroots, asset-based community development effort that is focused on and committed to utilizing their assets to serve their local and global neighbors.

It was a staple of my childhood, The Golden Rule: treat others how I want to be treated. As I type these words, in my mind I cannot help but hear my mom asking me “Well, how would you like to be treated?” So many childhood disputes summed up in a simple phrase. And yet, as children grow into adults, it can be easy to lose the golden rule, setting it aside for child’s play.

In striving for success, our development into independence, do we lose the foundational values our parents instilled in us? Do we forget how to treat others the way we want to be treated?

What if we still took this principle seriously? What would it look like if we applied it to our adult decisions? What would the landscape of our society look like? It would do incredible things; in particular, it would change our entire approach to economics. Being able to make that kind of change is why I choose to participate in Fair Trade practices.

Fair Trade is defined as a partnership based on an exchange of goods that involves dialogue, transparency and mutual respect. It pursues greater equity in international trade. Fair Trade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers. Fair Trade Agreement allows workers to receive the opportunity to buy food and obtain education, healthcare, and housing for themselves, their families, and community members.

fair-trade-golden-rule-sacred-markFair Trade invokes the Golden Rule in trade. Words like inclusion, transparency, respect, equity, and sustainability can attest to that. Fair trade offers a higher quality of life, the kind of life we want for ourselves and our families, and extends it to the producers of products we use day to day. Like the women of Sacred Mark, a co-op of women in Bangladesh (a partner of Ten Thousand Villages). As a result of their involvement in fair trade they are able to break free from the sex trade. Through fair trade these woman are given opportunity and power. They are no longer used as a commodity to be bought and sold. Now these women are fairly employed, provided education opportunities, and empowered business owners.

What can you do?

There are so many people who need help it can easily become overwhelming. Here are a few steps you can take to implement the Golden Rule back into your economics. It may take some extra time, but you would want someone to take the time for you:

  1. Learn: Read the stories of empowerment that come from Fair Trade practices . Read the tags on your clothing and food and see where they are coming from. Pray for the workers that provide your goods and look for a Fair Trade alternative when available.
    Here are some starting places:

  2. Shop: Budgets are moral documents. They speak what we value. Every purchase we make is a vote on where we place our value. When we shop Fair Trade we let everyone know that people matter and that all workers deserve a fair wage for their hard work. Look out for the Fair Trade label in your neighborhood grocery store.
    You can also shop at Fair Trade Retailers, such as these:

    Ten Thousand Villages
    Equal Exchange
    Inkkas Footwear


  3. Share: Share about your fair trade finds with your friends. Give a fair trade gift. Talk about fair trade to the cashier who is scanning your fair trade coffee. Knowledge is power. The more people know about Fair Trade the stronger the movement will become.
  4. Volunteer: There are many opportunities to get involved in Fair Trade. You can volunteer at a local Ten Thousand Villages. Set up a Fair Trade Chocolate & Coffee Club or sell Fair Trade at your church. I opened a wholesale account and sell at local events around Riverside, California.

Together we can make a difference when we stand in solidarity with community-based artisans, like the women of Sacred Mark.


Article by John Klock M.A.
Associate Executive Director for commonGood

Photo credit: “Coffee processing 1” by Peter Abrahamsen (copyright Peter Abrahamsen 2003), used with permission from Flickr through Creative Commons licensing.

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