Fair Trade and Middle Class values

Although I think Fair Trade is a good idea I am convinced it often does little more than making middle class people feel good about being rich!

Can you afford to buy Fair Trade? I can and often try to. It makes me feel good as if I am making the world a better place! The problem, as I see it , is that I can do this because I have a middle class job that is paid a good middle class wage.

Have you ever thought about how ‘fair’ some Fair Trade products are? Have a look at one of the Fair Trade museli bars, often there is less than 30% that is actually Fair Trade. Having gained the logo the product can then be sold at a much higher price attracting those who have money to buy and feel good about themselves. I often wonder as I pay the cashier at the supermarket for my ethically sound products, how ethically sound it is that she or he is getting paid so poorly?

I believe in Fair Trade, in one sense, but as long as some have wealth and others don’t we will continue to pretend we are making a difference. What we really need is a stronger political will to make equality a reality. That would mean I have less and others more. It doesn’t mean I have more to make the choice to pretend I am making poverty history.

Oh and by the way before everyone starts going on about some commune in India benefitting from Fair Trade. Think about what you are saying. Do you think they are being helped enough to have an equal standard of living as ourselves or that they can eat a decent meal or send their kids to school. We fool ourselves!

Join the Conversation


  1. Buying fair-trade bananas at my local co-op doesn’t cost me an arm or a leg, and doesn’t particularly make me feel good about myself either.

    I think i would actually have to take an active role in the set-up of growing and selling to feel good about my self if that was what I wanted from Fair Trade. Anyway just walking by my local market square and noticing how now more than three or five years ago there are more fair-trade logos makes me think that there is a rising in awareness over the trade-debate and disputes.

    Awareness at the least I don’t consider a bad thing though I agree that more can be done on a political level. Then again who voted for our political government to govern us again?

    >>Have a look at one of the Fair Trade museli bars, often there is less than 30% that is actually Fair Trade.<< I didnt actually get this statement, do you care to further elaborate on this please? Provocative and timely article anyway Lk

  2. >>I often wonder as I pay the cashier at the supermarket for my ethically sound products, how ethically sound it is that she or he is getting paid so poorly? << Alright this seems to be trying to relate the campaign for ethical payment of lowly paid local, and domestic growers of commodities in economically impoverished places to an average to above minimum wage fixed pay store worker in one of the five richest nations in the world. Interesting. And since when did the fair trade debate become an argument for higher employee pay in a department store? what good would that do the fair trade cause if the cashier at Tesco can now afford to buy a BMW like any middle-class Jane?

  3. I can’t help but feel this is a silly thing to worry about.

    You have these huge multinationals making money exploiting people and you are worried about buying fair trade??

    I confess to being firmly in that middle class bracket and in this area a little hypocritical (e.g. I still buy some Nestle products every now and then) but your worried about the brand fair trade?

    When more and more people become fair trade – their will be more awareness and people will want to know more and so then there will be a new faire trade maybe Fairer trade etc. In the mean time we show our support where we put our money – local produce, multinationals or fair trade.

  4. I agree with you pretty much. I’m glad that Fair Trade products are available and increasingly prominent, that I have the choice of buying coffee that wasn’t bought at the cheapest possible price from the growers but a price that was agreed in advance so they could plan for the future.

    But like with other ‘charity’ things, it’s not much good if we stop there. It’s easy to send money and food to help poor people, and salve your conscience, and not do anything to try and change their situation more permanently.

    And like that TV documentary said, some supermarkets seem to see it as a good opportunity to take an extra slice of profit out of us. On the other hand, are Fair Trade products really that much more expensive than other ones? I hadn’t noticed much difference. E.g. Fair Trade chocolate – you can get much cheaper chocolate, but if you want something of the same quality, you have to pay about the same price.

  5. If you look at the contents on some of the Fair Trade stuff you see that only a very small % of the ingredients are ‘Fair Traded’. I think it is very misleading!

  6. What do you suggest as a cure to this? That we start having so-and-so % fair-trade on food products? A bit like we had for recylced paper aint it?


  7. This could be a solution. I just wonder how much profit is made by the producer of such bars and does any of this get back to those who we feel we are helping? If Fair Trade products are sold at higher prices comparative to similar products it could be a money spinner. Wht are Nestle producing Fair Trade coffee? I suggest its because the profit margin for them is greater!

  8. The point is that inequality exists everywhere. Lets stop messing about with JUST trying to change the extremes of poverty why not make it that none of us can buy a BMW but that we can all afford something!

  9. >>The point is that inequality exists everywhere.<< It does indeed. But I think the whole message that Fair Trade awarness is pushing is that this “overseas poverty” is an extreme situation. And so if a movement is going to address the problem they are going to start from the bottom up. Isn’t so that the lowly paid over here in Britain have enough trade unions, and such for their political support? And our government the last i checked is LABOUR. At least Tesco workers can afford a cuppa, can’t say the same for our brethren in some Kenyan villages.

  10. I can’t help but feel that your complaining that fair trade is not ‘fair’!

    No it’s not fair and that is the point. I see where you are going on the supermarkets cashing in on the market and I would expect no less from a money making organisation.

    All I can say is that if you can find specifics e.g. how much of a cut each one takes and then tell me and others and let the facts out. We can then make more of an informed choice in our trade.

    You did mention ‘try and change their situation more permanently’. I am never quite sure whether or not we just want people to become more like ourselves or actually helping them. What are we helping them to? Middleclass peril?


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