Advocate Article

 4th WEEK AUGUST 2014

Recent discussions among interested groups in Whangarei have raised the possibility of Whangarei becoming a Fair Trade district.  Fair Trade is a different way of doing business.  It is about making principles of fairness and decency mean something in the marketplace.  It seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy – to ensure the growers and producers behind those products get a better deal.  Most often this is understood to mean better prices for producers, but it often means longer-term and more meaningful trading relationships as well.

As a core philosophy, fair traders believe in as little market intervention as possible.  It also complements the ‘buy local’ movement as both models focus on a strong relationship between producer and consumer with a minimal inference from middlemen.  Knowing the source of the product is also a central theme of this concept.  I guess it is easy to identify how the producer or grower benefits from this relationship and the consumer obviously can benefit because they are interested in quality, source and ingredients – what is in what they buy, where it comes from, how it was produced.

How the retailer benefits is probably little bit more difficult to articulate.  There is the obvious altruistic value for the retailer from doing good but this in itself may not always be sufficient for a retailer to opt in the process.  There is a demand from consumers to purchase Fair Trade products and there is market evidence both in New Zealand and overseas to show that although Fair Trade goods may cost a little more, people are happy to pay for the knowledge they are supporting  products that are as good for the people that grew them as much as for the people that consume them.  This demand and the opportunity that this provides for a retailer to develop a relationship with their customers beyond price and convenience allow a business to establish a point of difference in the marketplace.

There is also a case to argue that it creates a workplace environment where workers feel that they are working for a company that operates on good practice guidelines.  This improves workplace culture, peoples’ attitude towards their employer and flows on to reciprocal benefits such as, going the extra mile for their employer, loyalty, productivity and staff retention.  In other words the end result can be a more sustainable business within a more sustainable business community.

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