All About Fair Trade Products

June 17th 2016

In this edition of the Mother's Market Radio show, Lisa Bronner, a writer and consumer advocate, will share about the world of fair trade products, what they are and why they should matter to you and your family. Learn more about Lisa at:

The advice and informational content does not necessarily represent the views of mother's market and kitchen mother's recommends consulting your health professional for your personal medical condition.

Hello, I'm Kimberly King and welcome to the mother's market radio show, a show dedicated to the Truth, Beauty and Goodness of the human condition. On today's show, do you buy products that support fair trade, not sure what Fair Trade is, learn all about the benefits of buying fairtrade and how to search out those products, plus later we'll tell you what's going on around town and with new Atmos market. But first at, Lisa broner is a prolific writer, consumer advocate and speaker on health and green lifestyle issues, and she's the author of the blog going green with a browner mom and granddaughter of Dr. Emmanuel broner, founder of Dr. broner, the top selling ground of natural soaps in North America, and the producer of organic body care and food products, additionally.

She's a vocal proponent for GMO labeling, fair trade and other issues. Dr. broner supports to bring about social justice and environmental sustainability, and we welcome her to the mother's market radio show.

Lisa, how are you?

I'm well, thank you, Kim, I'm glad to be here.

It's nice to have you... Why don't you fill our audience in a little bit on your mission and your work before we get to today's show topic.

I'd be happy too.

So I hope I speak for the consumer on my blog, I aim to educate the consumer so that they could make more educated decisions when they're out in the market, and to realize that with every dollar they're casting a vote, so as they're buying things, they're endorsing certain business practices and certain ways of life, as well as bringing certain ways of life into their own homes, so I try to educate them on what's going on behind the scenes in business and also educate them with the products that they're buying, realizing what labels mean, what they don't mean understanding the ingredients, what's healthy, what's not... Excellent, well, today we are talking about fair trade and sustainability. And so, Lisa, what is fair trade and why is it a good thing... Fair trade is an issue that has sort of gone beyond organic, organic has been a wonderful movement that has help reassure customers when products are made without genetic and modified ingredients, without most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. It's been a great thing, but one area on which organic a silent is the issue of fair trade, of labor and labor is where fair trade comes in.

So you can have products that are made organically, but are still made in slum conditions where workers are not treated fairly, they're not paid fairly, they're not guaranteed good working conditions or fair labor practices at all, and so a fair trade certification and fair trade business practices helps to reassure customers that from the bottom up, the products are being made ethically with compassion, that the supply chain from the very beginning of the growing of the ingredients is what they hope and perhaps always thought it was. And thank you for describing that because we hear about it, but we just don't necessarily... Not everybody knows. How does Fair Trade differ from organic?Fairtrade focuses on labor, it focuses on making sure, especially with our global supply chain, that the ingredients are raised with organic practices, three of the masters that we all hope they are, but also with treating the workers fairly, that they're paid a living wage based on their area and that they're living or that they're working in safe and fair communities, and how is fairtrade more than just another marketing given that is a wonderful question. And unfortunately, as fair trade becomes more well known and people start looking for it, some companies are going to, what we call fair wash their products where they're going to have some sort of appearance or implication that they are fair trade and they're not... But fair trade truly is more than a marketing gimmick, as residents of the most... Of the most wealthy countries in the world, we have a responsibility to make sure we're not taking advantage and exploiting people from other countries through our consumerism, and we are a huge consumer culture, and so we want people to know that when they're buying... When they're buying products that have come from around the world that they have some reassurance that they're not endorsing child labor, they're not advocating for it by supporting companies that use child labor, also companies that have fair hiring of men and women across racial and ethnic and religious boundaries, all of these things, this is really what fair trade is about, and so the fair balance as well on that... Yeah, you've mentioned all across the board, can you talk about what is fair washing... Fair washing, and we sort of base this term back on while still on the practice that is all too common that we call green washing, and green washing is making a product a per organic or somehow safer when it's not through perhaps using the word organic and a brand name, even when it's not in a product name, or making organic claims on a product when there is perhaps 1% or even less organic ingredients in the product. green washing can also come into play when you put a product in a package that is brown or green or mate colored in some way that it links at look and that it's healthier when it is not fair.

Washing is similar by using some sort of symbolism on the packaging that makes it look like it is supporting good labor practices when it is absolutely not... They could argue, Well, we didn't say anything, but they certainly are giving the implication, also making fair trade claims when, as I said, maybe a minute amount of the ingredients in the product are actually from fair trade sources, and most of the ingredients are not... That would be an example of fair washing. Why did fair trade products cost more?

Well, you are being more responsible with your buying choices and supporting better labor practices, there is a premium on top of that, that does require more money, but if you think about the fact that you're going to be paying the money somewhere... Nothing comes from nothing. So if you're gonna be skimpy on the front end by having poor labor practices, it's gonna come around on the back end when you've got a humanitarian issues providing, but having a premium upfront, it's money that's being proactively spent, providing better communities, building better working conditions for the employees.

So for example, when you have a Fair Trade product or a fair trade company, there's actually a fair trade premium account that is reserved for community benefit, and so it's not just money that's going in to help that particular product being produced, but actually helping the employees communities as well, one example is that Dr. Brown has a fair trade company that we partly own in Sri Lanka that produces our fair trade coconut oil, and it's been there since 2006, and because of the fairtrade practices and this fair trade account that we have, we've been able to do things such as provide much needed equipment in medical clinics provide plumbing and electricity in local schools, provide electricity to remote villages, clean up polluted water reservoirs for the rice farmers, things that don't directly impact the growing of coconuts or the production of coconut oil, but in building a stronger community in a better community, it results in a better running factory since our employees are living in a better place.

That's great. And I guess I have a question about...

Do all fair trade products have this community time?

Not necessarily, not necessarily, and that's where you need to be looking more wisely as a consumer in what the fair trade claims are, and what the Fair Trade certification is, there are quite a few Fair Trade certifies out there, and some have more substantive claims than others, also since companies could use Fair Trade language without a certification, and companies could actually use fair trade practices without a certification, so it's a combination of knowing your certifications and looking for them, but also knowing your companies, 'cause you could have really good companies, really ethical companies using sustainable business practices, they perhaps are too small to pursue, certification can be expensive, but if you know them and you've investigated them, which sounds like a lot of work up front, but once you know people and you know companies you can and hopefully trust them, then you can be sure, that their fair trade claims are valid, who certifies and who regulates the fair train?

There are quite a few certifies out there and more and more, every year as fair trade becomes more familiar to consumers, so there are ones run by the federal government and there are ones run by independent and small and large.

Dr. broner is certified under one of the most stringent by IMO called Fair for life, and it has a very solid certification requirements, very in-depth, very rigorous on investigators standards that come by, people that come by and see what we're doing, both in the United States and throughout our supply chain... So there's about six or seven different ones, there's one specifically for small scale farmers, and that's an excellent one, because we wanna make sure that the small scale farmers aren't being wiped out or exploited by the larger corporations out there.

Right, so what should a consumer look for if they wanna buy a legitimate fair trade products?

Well, the two certifications that I trust the most are the fair for life and Eco-SERT, which is another one that's pretty good, those aren't fair trade not being as popular as organic, those might be a little bit harder to find, but if you see those... It's pretty good out there.

The ingredients, there are certain ingredients that it's coming to media attention that they have worse and worse conditions in which they're produced chocolate, sugar, cocoa sugar and palm oil are three of the big ones.

The issue with Coco in particular is the employment of children and its growth and manufacturing, and then there's been a ton of media attention over palm oil and the habitat destruction for primates and Indonesia and Malaysia fair trade also certifies the sustainability of the production so that it's not being whatever it is, is not being produced. To the decimation of the earth.

Well, what are some reliable resources for information about fear train, one of the best websites to go to, in fact, I could get lost in it for hours with all the information out there, is the fair world project website for world project dot org. And they have excellent comparisons of the different certifications, so you know what each one means, and they have issues that the consumers can be particularly paying attention to, so they don't feel like they're just lost in a quagmire of uncertainty, and they also have events to educate the consumer, thank you for letting us know that because, yeah, this is information that obviously you're passionate about, but thank you for educating us and letting us know as well... There's so much more ahead. Don't go away, we'll be right back.

And welcome back to the mother's market radio show. And we wanna remind you that if you've missed any portion of today's show, you can find us on iTunes by searching mother's market or download the show from our website, mother's market dot com, click the link for radio and listen to the past shows. Plus download our Healthy Recipes and money savings coupons, all available at mother's market dot com. And now back to our interview with Lisa broner, and we're talking about the fair trade and sustainability and organics, and really, this is kind of a new area that you're really empowering... You're educating us about Lisa. So, do fair trade projects really make a difference to the people and communities that they're meant to benefit... They do, they do. And since we're talking about places all over the world, it can be a little harder to see, and you hope you're not just throwing your money away, but companies that legitimately want to show that they are fair trade and sustainably produced will be very transparent with their supply chain, if a company is not transparent with their supply chain, then that's a red flag right there.

So for example, Dr. broner is my family's company, we decided to go fair trade in 2004s when we made the statement that we would be seeking to go fairtrade with all of our major ingredients, which are olive oil, coconut oil and palm oil and peppermint oil, and so we were able to find of olive oil out of this beautiful Palestinian organization that employees brings in all of... Some farmers that are both Arab and Israeli, it's just a wonderful reconciliation program as well. However, coven oil, which is our second biggest ingredient, there was no fair trade source, so we have this desire to go fair trade, and we just couldn't... And so, in a happy meeting of circumstances, coming out of a great tragedy with the 2000, the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean in the late 2004, it brought a lot of national attention to areas that weren't great. Well, now, one of those was RILA, Sri Lanka had a massive death toll over over 30000 people died and a tiny island during the tsunami, and with the international relief that came in, somebody that worked with us happened to be there and said, There is an untapped resource of coconuts are... That don't have a market. And so we actually found that a sister company there called Surendra that established a fair try coconut mill in cleats longa, an area called the coconut triangle.

So that got off the ground in 2006. and since then, as far as the benefit to the community goes, we now buy coconuts from 1200 small family farmers, we employ 300 people there and safe, clean, fair working conditions, and farmers are guaranteed a fair price for their nuts and the fairtrade premium in the Community Benefit Fund has just done marvelous things for the area there, I have the opportunity to go visit longer two summers ago and see it for myself, and it was just a beacon in the area where there is a lot of makeshift housing and the things that aren't terribly permanent. The Surendra facility is beautiful, and us sustainable building materials, it is welcoming to the community and has the reaching out to any farmers that would like to sell their coconuts at post the price, very fair price. But also does a lot of education, which is wonderful, a lot of education on organic and sustainable growing practices, it supplied its set up an organic composting operation that just brings everything full circle, where the part of the coconut that we don't use for the oil such as the husks are put into the composting a facility along with chicken manure from local farms and landscape or vegetation that's pulled out of contaminated reservoirs, and we have this organic composting facility that then feeds the coconut trees of our farmers... That organization or that fairtrade fund is also supplying vocational training for girls that are in a foster care home and bought them 20 industrial sewing machines and pays the salary of an instructor so that these girls are taught an occupation for... When they age out of the system, and you can just see how much benefit it has given, so we have been able to put over the past 10 years of Serena Paul's operation 12 million into the communities around cleat, it also provides all school supplies, shoes, and uniforms for the children of the employees, to make sure that they are able to get education that they need, as well as the individual employees can apply for grants for home improvement projects of things like a thing to put in indoor plumbing or dial or provide electricity for their homes, and these things are actually happening, and because our consumers to be able to see this, we just released this month, a documentary called Coconut rock, and it's on our website, it's just eight minutes long, but you get to see Serena and hear from the people who are running it, the people who are working there. And here's some great individual stories of people who have benefited from the operation there, benefiting through business business, making a positive difference in the area...

I'm so happy that you were telling me now about this documentary because that is so worthy of that after all of the benefits of just the fruit of such a tragedy of the tsunami, and then look at how... Just by you going over there and educating what you can provide a positive, there could be so many negatives that have come through that, but... Thank you for doing that.

Wow. So yeah, we'll check that out, coconut rock.

What does sustainable or... Sustainability source mean when it comes to consumer products, so sustainable refers to the impact that a product has on the environment in which it's grown or raised, so something that sustainably sourced means that it doesn't deplete the environment, it amends it, so whether we're talking the soil itself, is it something that's raised in a mono culture where the same crop is planted over and over and over, depleting the soil of the nutrients that that crop needs, or is it a crops that are planted sustainably with crop rotation and letting fields rest and amending the soil with organic compost, rather than polluting it with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, it will also refer to things such as... Is it destroying the habitat? For example, with palm oil, as I mentioned, there are many unsustainable productions out there where they are clear cutting the habitat specifically of our ranting to plant the palm trees, and then eventually we're gonna run out of rain forest to clear for that. And this is in the area, usually in Malaysia, Indonesia were most palm well comes from... And specifically with this issue of palm oil, there's been so much media attention on how unsustainable it's being raised that the tendency I've heard among consumers, especially those who write in to Dr. broader is that palm oil is evil and there's no possible way to use it or to produce it sustainably, so nobody should use it in food or end consumer products. Well, that's not the case. That is people being too pessimistic and not realizing that there are good ways to do these things, so Dr. broner started a fair trade sustainable pool production in Ghana where there is no orangutan habitat, and they all... We call that surrender palatinate, it's a beautiful operation that is raising palm trees and manufacturing palm oil that we use in our sops in a way that is, once again, creating a stronger community benefiting the employees and using sustainable farming practices, educating people. And so they are... With our fair trade work, we've been able to supply bed nets to stop the spread of malaria in the community, and we also actually were able to build a maternity ward on their local hospital there, and those are wonderful community benefits, but back to the sustainable aspect of it, it's also teaching the farmers to use the poem trees there and to nurture them and strengthen them in ways that are benefiting the soil and the environment rather than depleting it.

Wow, I love that you don't just come in and do it one thing, you do several things and it just keeps giving... You know, everything affects everything, it's all a giant web, you can't just say, Well, all we do is this... No, it has reverberations.

Yes, right. And with the ingredients that, I guess with what angry and should consumers be most concerned about when it comes to sustainability, will Palmer really is the big one, because most of the Propel oil out there is not sustainably produced, it is produced through clear cutting natural habitat. And so, unfortunately, even some of the certifications out there for Palm Oil aren't that great, you really have to look into the product and look into where it's being sourced, and I know that means a little bit more homework, but we wanna be educated consumers and we wanna be voting wisely with our dollars, so looking and taking an afternoon and looking into a few brands and deciding who's doing things well and who's not, and where am I going to vote with my money, and what about sustainable food production and how is it conventional agriculture is it currently unsustainable.

Conventional agriculture is horribly unsustainable. And eventually, this is going to come back and haunt us. It is already haunting us, I already mentioned the issue of monoculture. This is what's happening in the heartland of America right now, where we have monoculture and is killing, it is killing our soil, we are raising single crops over and over, corn and soy being the main ones, and this is not how farming is supposed to be done, the farming is supposed to be done through proportion, through knowing the interdependence of plants and animals, knowing the value of resting the soil and the value of using organic amendments to the soil as well. The situation we have now is that there's so much bad things being sprayed onto our crops that they run off into our water systems is creating these dead zones in the rivers and in the Delta. The Mississippi River Delta is a dead zone because there's so much junk coming down off of the farm, the farm lands of America, there... We have the issue where there's so much, many things fed to our cattle, so many antibiotics and growth hormones that their manure is unusable than for the crops, and there used to be the beautiful cycle where the... The corn, or I'm sorry, the catalase, the grass, and then the manure was used to fertilize the fields, and it was a cycle, but no, they're a nurse toxic that the farmers don't even want it.

Isn't that a shame?

So do sustainable food source mean healthier food for the consumer, you just described that chain, but... Or is it merely an environmental consideration... Well, it's both because what will be good for the environment, which is organic, organic fertilizers and soil amendments, those are the things that are good for the food as well, we're not gonna end up with odd things in our food, we're not gonna end up with antibiotics and with growth hormones and with synthetic petro chemical fertilizers in the food, so we have to remember that we as humans are part of the environment as well, and generally what benefits the environment? Benefits to humans as well. healthier food, healthier cattle means healthier food for us and healthier crops even... All throughout the food supply. It's interdependent, and that changes continue if we can turn things around. In the end, this has been so interesting and so fascinating, and I really appreciate you stopping by today to enlighten us all, and hopefully we can turn it around the more we get this information out. Thank you, Lisa.

Thank you so much for having me, I've enjoyed it.

Thank you and some great advice, we really appreciate your knowledge and we look forward to having you on again, but in the meantime, you can get more information on Lisa and the website is Dr. broner dot com, it's B-R-O-N-N-E-R, by the way, I would look forward to you your next visit.

Thank you so much, Kim.

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