Chapter 1 from “Social Responsibility in the Global Market” begins by introducing Fair Trade and on the “businesses that market cultural products from developing countries into the United States through a system of fair trade” (pg.4). The organizations are called Alternative Trade Organizations or ATO’s and the products that they trade are all the products that consist of the artisan’s local traditions, aesthetics and culture. The main goal of the ATO’s is to create fair trade in such a way that artisan’s are paid a fair amount of money, giving them as much as possible as opposed to paying them for “cheap labor”. The ATO’s are determined to improve the lifestyles of the artisan’s and give them an improved standard of living. The authors then go on to talk about the “socially responsible” part of this trade, which means that when decisions are being made, they keep many things in mind such as natural resources and local traditions, making sure the workplaces are safe and favorable for the artisans and workers are paid fairly. I do think that the goals of fair trade and the ATO’s are successful in sustainability and fairness to the artisans and they are extremely necessary especially after so many companies that we all know and buy from on a daily basis have underlying issues of human rights and exploitation, and the artisan’s do not get their dues.
One of the concerns that do arise about Fair Trade is the manner in which the consumers might react towards these products; they wonder whether the artisan’s who are creating the products might be treated badly and under exploited conditions, so fair trade allows a peek into the “past impacts, present initiatives and future viability in the global market.” (Pg. 9) Which is important because consumers always want to know that when they are paying for something that is handcrafted, one of a kind and is from a developing country – they want to make sure that the artisan’s themselves are being treated well and getting the rights and money they deserve as people have seen and read about exploitation of workers in developing countries. From the artisan’s side of things, since they only have a limited knowledge about foreign tastes and liking, their experience is mainly limited to local and regional trading and so it is always easy for the traders trading for the artisan’s in the foreign market to pay the artisan’s much less than they deserve and easily get away with it. The author points out that there is also a large need for the artisan’s to get cross-cultural help and knowledge so that they can create products that will sell to the consumers that they are trying to sell to.
For example, a company called “I Owe You” or “IOU Project” (http://iouproject.com/) was presented to a class that I was in last semester – it is a company that creates unique apparel that is traceable back to where it started from, by exactly whom it was created. The material is called “Lungi” textile, which is hand woven and they use locally grown cotton to create the lungi and so it is a 100% sustainable. They have a fun and interesting marketing video that tells you about the company briefly which I found helpful and the idea that you can not only know from where you artisan is but also his/her name and also the name of the retailer selling it to you is a clever way in which consumers can be a little more sure about the organization and worry less about exploitation. The apparel is mostly a plaid kind of texture and when shown to the class, most of the students reacted by saying that they would buy the products because of the stories and to help out these artisan’s but when it came to the look and the fact that everything was plaid, that is what they did not like so they probably wouldn’t spend 125$ on a plaid shirt.
It is not only the knowledge provided to the artisans about cross-culture, but also the manner in which the products are marketed to the consumers. The must be well in informed about the ATO and its intentions, as mentioned earlier so there is no misunderstanding and they feel confident to buy the product. The authors place a lot of emphasis on the business strategies of the ATO’s while maybe they could realize that consumer demand would be a better way to get people from around the world to feel confident and make them want to buy these products – it is not only the marketing of them but also maybe their design aspect – keeping in mind of course that the cultural identity of the artisans and their traditions stays intact and they do not end up being another mass produced company like Zara or H&M.