Is America ready for Fair-Trade?

Starbucks is going Fair Trade in the UK, so is Cadbury. Their U.S. counterparts aren’t. What’s up with that?

This piece in CS Monitor by Eric Marx pretty much sums it up:

…more than 70 percent of the British populace recognize the fair-trade mark, whereas consumer recognition in the United States is only 28 percent, according to recent surveys.

And as I pointed out here, environmentalism and organics tend to trump fair-trade. The article confirms that:

TransFair USA, the nonprofit that licenses products to carry the fair-trade certified label on agricultural products, says it is looking into establishing standards for apparel. But fair-trade fashion faces significant hurdles in the US.

“It’s quite easy for the fiber industry to develop their own weak ecolabels in order to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers,” says Craig Minowa, an environmental scientist with the Organic Consumers Association.

American fair-trade fashion has already arrived, says Lynda Grose, a sustainable fashion design pioneer, although it’s not yet advertised as such. Companies like Eileen Fisher, Levi’s, and American Ap¬¬parel all incorporate elements of fair trade.

In the US, organic products crowd out the fair-trade message, but the biggest hurdle remains in making the link between individual purchases to development work and wages in far-off countries, says Carmen Iezzi of the Fair Trade Federation in Washington, D.C.

In one study, fewer than 6 percent of Americans could name a fair-trade organization unaided, according to a report last month by the federation.


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