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Decoding Fair Trade: what does it really mean?

Decoding Fair Trade: what does it really mean?

The concept of fair trade began back in 1946*, and as the market of international goods has grown, so has the variety and number of organizations claiming the fair trade designation. But what does it actually mean?

For Zeal Living, fair trade means the artisan and their overall well-being comes before everything else. We want to create the kind of world where human beings are empowered by the work of their hands, and profits are not the ultimate deciding factor. The artisans come first. 

The World Fair Trade Organization defines Fair Trade as: "a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers." **

Zeal Living is, and has always been, a fair trade oriented organization. As our founder, it's my responsibility to ask the difficult questions. Before I choose to place an order with any artisan group, I research at length to determine:

  • Is this artisan being paid a living wage?
  • Are their working conditions safe?
  • Is the product free from child labor?
  • Is the price the artisans earn for this product allowing them to thrive?
  • Are there any additional benefits such as education, skills training, health care, etc provided to the artisans in this group?
  • Do the production practices of the group honor and respect the local environment? Is any recycling or up-cycling of materials part of the process?
  • Is the culture of this group, including their traditional designs and motifs, being respected and honored? Are their voices heard in design and production?

As a result of all this research, I am confident and proud to bring you the work of these incredible artisans and artisan groups. Some of the artisans we purchase from are WTFO certified, and some are not. The certification process can be costly and time consuming, and so we do not eliminate artisan groups who are not officially certified. However, our involvement with them includes continual check-ins to be sure the heart of the organization is in alignment with the general principles of fair trade, and that no artisans are being exploited at any part of the process.  

I've made artisan profiles for every group we partner with, and the list is updated often as we discover exciting new product for you. You can visit each artisan profile page and learn more about the makers here. 

I hope this has helped to clarify what we mean when we talk about fair trade. If you have questions about a specific partnership or artisan group, feel free to reach out at 





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