Increasing Demand for Fair Trade Challenges Organizations
Monday, October 5, 2009
The premise is simple: to receive a fair wage for hard work. The fair trade movement, which began shortly after the Cold War, has regained momentum recently. A 2008 Fair Trade Federation Interim Report stated there was a 102 percent growth in U.S. and Canadian sales for Fair Trade products between 2004 and 2006.
Increasingly, corporations are confronted with vocal consumer demands for fair trade certified products. According to John McCall, Ph.D., director of the Pedro Arrupe Center for Business Ethics at Saint Joseph’s University and a professor of management and philosophy, “It is time for corporate leaders to acknowledge some responsibility for the working conditions under which their products are produced.”
“As the labor and environmental problems of globally-sourced production become more obvious to companies and consumers alike, firms can no longer escape responsibility by claiming ignorance about the practices of their suppliers,” explains McCall. “Instead, firms have an increased responsibility to manage their supply chains and to assure the products they sell are produced under socially responsible conditions.”
On the issue of fair trade, Neal Hooker, Ph.D., C.J. McNutt Chair of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s, is working to increase consumer awareness of interrelated issues. “Just because a company labels their product as fair trade, doesn’t mean they are necessarily 100 percent fair trade,” cautions Hooker. “Companies need to be more transparent on this issue, while international trade agencies need to develop greater equity in how these products are labeled and marketed to consumers.”
For further discussion on these issues, Hooker and McCall will host the Fair Trade Symposium at Saint Joseph’s University on Friday, Oct. 30. Titled, “Examining Fair Trade: Good Will and Good Business?” the symposium will offer an objective perspective from fair trade sponsors, academics, the food industry and the community.