I didn't have any of these answers the first time I picked up a bag of fair trade coffee. I just knew that I had heard a little about it and that people I respected talked about fair trade sometimes and that it must be the right thing to do. So that went on for awhile, but as someone who is curious for a living, I had to know the facts. Here they are!
The Fair Trade Federation defines fair trade as “a more equitable and sustainable system of production and trade.” Wikipedia calls it "an organized social movement which promotes standards for international labor, environmentalism, and social policy in areas related to production of Fairtrade labeled and unlabeled goods.”
Why is fair trade important?
The fair trade movement promotes and supports fair wages for workers no matter where they are from. "Fair wages" referring to what makes sense locally. Manufacturers, artisans and craftsmen must earn a wage they can live on and that is relative to other trades in their local economic system in order for a product to be labelled "Fair trade." Generally, this means that artisans, etc. are paid 15 to 30 percent of the retail price of the goods they're creating.
Fair trade also applies to the environment that people work in. Fair trade organizations work hard to ensure safe working conditions for artisans, create economic stability for communities in developing countries, and improve social and humanitarian conditions in those communities to help ensure that the workers can continue working and earning wages.