A question I often get asked is "How do you know if the company you are supporting is actually fair trade?" This is an excellent question, so I thought I'd share with you a few ways that I check into the products I buy.
1. Check the Label: This is pretty self explanatory. If there is a fair trade certification label on the product, then the company has invested time and money into being certified. Third party groups verify these companies' policies and practices.
2. Read the policies: I was in Ireland and went into a store called "Penny's". The store had a sign by the register stating their ethical policies and that they were committed to providing a fair wage and good working conditions to the people who made their products. It made me feel better about shopping there. And I was able to go back and read, in detail, their policies. And call me naive, but I tend to believe that if a company goes to all that effort to display their ethics and makes it a priority, they're trying to make things better. I certainly think its better than a company having NO ethical policy.
3. Ask them about the people who make the products. If the organization is invested in the people who make their products, they'll have stories, examples, and even names of the artisans. I used to work at a shop called "Go Fish" on the Marietta Square. We had pictures, names, and stories of artisans all around our shop, and could explain how our model worked to curious customers.
4. Do some research. If you come across some companies, research them online. Many times you can find news articles, reviews and opinions about the company or organization. That takes a bit of time but information is fairly easy to find.
5. Write a letter: If you're still curious and haven't been able to find information, write a letter to the customer service section of the store or company. My new friend Kristi recently did this with the grocery stores she shops at. Check out her blog to read the responses.
6. Check their grade. I posted about Free2Work last week. Check out Free2Work to see if the company has a grade. They've done a bunch of the legwork for you. And if the company doesn't have a grade, tweet Free2Work to see if they know anything.
So there you have it. Six simple ways to do some investigating. And this summer, I'm going to do some of the investigating for you. I'll be using these methods before I post any organization on this blog. I've found some great organizations, and I'm excited to share them with you. Lots of good stuff coming soon!