During my junior year of college, I became involved in the Indiana Public Interest Research Group, a student organization that aimed to cure societal ills including, my pet project, raising fair trade awareness. As part of my mission, I organized a showing of the 2006 documentary Black Gold, a film chronicling the journey of a coffee union manager to obtain better prices for his workers’ Ethiopian coffee beans. I lured students to the screening by serving free fair trade coffee, and I set up a photo booth so attendees could pose with a life-size Fair Trade USA’s logo.
Yet as I was writing this month’s In the Aisle feature, I realized my stupendous college naivety: The intricacies of conscious sourcing and responsible buying are more extensive than I ever realized. Perhaps because of films like Black Gold, media has focused almost exclusively on coffee, chocolate and sugar farmers. What about other ingredients? The dedicated folks at Fair Trade USA, Equal Exchange, Fair for Life, the Rainforest Alliance and more strive to create all-encompassing fair trade programs.
But it’s not just certification agencies that are leading the fair trade charge. Manufacturers, suppliers and retailers like you are largely responsible for teaching consumers why they should partake in a system that provides opportunities for producers to lift themselves out of poverty.
In the “real” world—outside of the college bubble—it’s tough to fathom that something as humble as a movie screening could incite any real change. But you have the unique opportunity to impact shopper decisions at point of sale by explaining to your customers how buying responsibly produced products will make a tangible difference in the world.