Fair Trade Purchases Ensure Justice for Farmers and Workers
By Mercy Investment Services Social Responsibility Team
How often do you think about the source of the chocolate you have for an afternoon snack? What about the clothing you wear? Your morning coffee? Under what conditions were those items produced? Was the person working in the fields or factories paid a fair wage for his or her effort?
For consumers wanting to make a positive impact with their purchases, fair trade products ensure that goods were produced in an ethical manner – including fair wages and working conditions for laborers and fair prices paid for the farmers’ products. The fair trade labeling standard was established in 1988; during Fair Trade Month, you can pledge to support organizations that produce and sell fair trade items.
As part of its commitment to solidarity with the economically poor, Mercy Investment Services invests in organizations supporting fair trade through Mercy Partnership Fund, its community investing program. Mercy’s loans to several organizations are positively impacting farmers and cooperatives implementing fair trade standards. Mercy Partnership Fund currently has loans to:
- Cooperative Coffees, a green coffee cooperative, imports fair trade coffee, educates farmers on Fair Trade certifications, financing and technical advice. Cooperative Coffees, which includes coffee roasters in the United States and Canada, partners with farmer cooperatives around the world – including in Bolivia, Peru and Uganda – whose coffee meets fair trade standards.
- The Cooperative Fund of New England, which invests in cooperatives in New England and part of New York, loans money to cooperatives such as the Brattleboro Food Co-op and the Concord Food Co-op, which sell fair trade products to their members.
- Oikocredit, an international micro-finance institution, offers loans, credit lines, equity investments and capacity building to fair trade organizations. Clients such as SEKEM Holding in Egypt receive funding from Oikocredit to support the production, processing and marketing of farms using organic techniques and according to fair trade principles.
- Global Partnerships, a nonprofit social investor, offers micro-loans and other services to micro-finance organizations and cooperatives. Global Partnerships continues to support organizations such as Grounds for Change, a fair trade coffee producer, and Aprocassi, a small-scale, woman-owned coffee farmer in Peru. Global Partnerships has gone so far as to work with Grounds for Change to sell a special coffee, Opportunity Blend, with 15 percent of the sales supporting micro-loans to borrowers starting or growing their businesses.
Mercy Investment Services and Mercy Partnership Fund continue to look for new opportunities to invest in organizations supporting fair trade principles, which align with Mercy’s concern for human rights and the economically poor.