By Jennifer Williams
Business owners must pay close attention to emerging trends, consumer behaviors, and subtle and sustained shifts in the market. We can make the greatest plans in the world, but if we ignore the big changes around us, we risk finding ourselves quickly off-trend, out competed, and left behind.
Business owners need to be aware of the shifting consciousness of consumers, who increasingly seek transparency and integrity in the products they purchase, and who are more concerned than ever about where these products come from. The rise of ethical certifications such as Fair Trade, Organic, and the more recent B Corp demonstrate this powerful market shift that is underway.
Fair Trade certified products have been sold in Canada for over 10 years, with coffee being one of the first such products available on the market. Taking coffee as a prime example, consumer expectations in terms of Fair Trade certification have grown significantly since the days of the early adopters. The options for Fair Trade certified coffee in the late 1990s were few and far between, and the value for producers, while emotionally felt, had little empirical evidence.
Today we have data that shows the impact Fair Trade can have for farmers in the global south. Fair trade has long and deep roots with producer co-operatives of small-scale farmers. In Peru, smallholder farms have seen improvement in income and production, as well as improvement to organizational structures, the use of inputs, increases in assets, and better attitudes towards evaluating risk.
It’s also been reported that the number of families involved in Peru’s coffee industry has doubled in less than 20 years, and the export value has grown from $60 million USD to $1.5 billion USD.
With respect to other Fair Trade products such as cocoa, sugar, or cotton—to name a few—we can expect that similar trends will follow.
Fair trade products make good sense for everyone involved: for the end consumers who can trust the ethics and integrity behind their purchases, for the businesses that
maintain a competitive edge while offering ethical alternatives, and most importantly for the producers who gain access to intangible value and an improved quality of life.
The impact of Fair Trade for producers speaks directly to the power of what can happen when consumers act with consciousness and when businesses listen closely and respond to consumer demand. With consumers and businesses aligned in conscious decision making, the opportunities for a more sustainable and equitable world can be truly life-changing.
Jennifer Williams is the CEO of La Siembra Co-op, a worker-owned co-op based in Ottawa, Ontario. La Siembra is the creator of Camino, a Canadian line of Fairtrade and Organic
certified cocoa, sugar, and coffee based products.