As summer draws nearer some of the students head for a well-earned holiday, others graduate and some lucky ones begin working. After you are sure you have a job you start planning how to spend your wages: maybe you should take a last minute travel deal, go enjoy a festival, sit in a beer garden or maybe save some of it for the upcoming academic year – there are plenty of choices. But what if you had a job but weren’t sure if you were going to get paid for it? Or rather, what if you had to work without any guarantees of a paycheck?
For many farmers in the developing countries the situation is real. They get paid such a low price for their products that they can’t make a living doing their job. In addition, their daily income may be dependent on using child labor and pesticides which are banned in the West for being hazardous for people and for the environment. And all this for products most of us use daily: coffee, tea, cacao (chocolate) and many different fruits. Many wine manufactures face the same problems as well.
It is a problem, though, with a solution we can all participate in. The slogan for Fairtrade is the world changes one purchase at a time, and it is a simple, but a clear message to all consumers. By favoring Fairtrade products one is involved in making sure that the producers receive prices that cover their average costs of sustainable production. This, in turn, benefits the people and the environment. It is also a safety net for the farmer against the fluctuations of the world market prices.
In addition, all the employees of a plantation are guaranteed decent wages and working conditions and have the right to join trade unions. The farming community is also provided with an additional Fairtrade Premium which can be invested in projects that benefit the whole community, e.g. building a school. Child labour is prohibited in the Fairtrade standards and the farming community must take care of biodiversity.
So, when you head out to do some shopping, check if the product you have chosen carries the Fairtrade logo or if a Fairtrade certified option can be found. At the moment there are about 1700 Fairtrade products available in Finland, so you may find Fairtrade certified alternatives in all kinds of product groups. Of course, with a student’s budget it may not always be possible to pay the extra euros that separate some of the Fairtrade certified products from cheaper options, but think about what you are paying for. Do you prefer your products being produced in unsustainable conditions as cheaply as possible? Or do you want to pay a little extra so that the farmer will get paid for their job (as any working student or a graduate) and can at the same time protect resources that are common to us all?
If you are looking for a gift to someone about to graduate or just don’t know where to start, I can recommend buying Fairtrade roses or wine, for example (Fairtrade sparkling wine is also available at Alko). You can also find a good alternative from the University shop Soppi, which sells Fairtrade certified coffee under the name of Rehtorin juhlavampi mokka.
But however you spend your summer, may it be filled with fine moments and relaxation whenever possible. And above all, may this summer be Fairer to us all!
Fair University -coordinator
More information about Fairtrade: