How Fair Trade Actually Changes the World

(With kids in cocoa region of Ivory Coast)

You’re standing in the aisle. Before you is a bar of normal chocolate and a bar of Fair Trade or ethically sourced chocolate, or a pair of regular underwear and a pair of Fair Trade underwear, or a pair of regular chocolate underwear and a pair of Fair Trade chocolate underwear. (Just kidding about that last one. I don’t think Fair Trade is in the “novelty” market yet. Someday!)

You have a choice to make: Be fair or be normal?

Choose the product that supports millions of farmers around the world, sets certain social and environmental standards, provides producers with a guaranteed minimum price for their product and a social premium, or choose the one that is business as usual?

If you buy the fair option, does that change the world? This one act at this moment, does it change the life of a farmer or factory worker?

Not really.

Sure, if enough of us do it, collectively Fair Trade and ethical consumption can change the lives of farmers and factory workers around the world. I’ve seen the change first hand in the lives of cocoa farmers and coffee farmers. But that small single act in a store in Oklahoma or in Indiana or wherever by itself contributes a small part to that change.

But something much bigger happens in that moment.

You stop to think about that bag of coffee or pair of underwear and you consider that it came from somewhere else and someone else. You think about a family supported by the work, sending kids to school, paying for books and medicine. You think about a world beyond your own needs. A world connected.

That moment is a small act of gratitude that doesn’t necessarily change the world immediately, but it changes the way you see the world. That changes the way you interact with the world as a consumer, producer, giver, volunteer, as a local and global citizen, and that, my friend, can change the world.

My friends at Fair Trade USA are celebrating Fair Trade month. You can learn more about Fair Trade and the ever-growing list of Fair Trade products at

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