If Cosmetic Design Europe are correct we should all be on the lookout for some extreme ethics when we next go shopping.  Quite what extreme ethics are is not clear – I have this picture in my head of remote mountain folk hand grinding their herbs and snowboarding them down to the truck awaiting patiently at the bottom of the hill. No middle men, no fuss.  This may or may not be the case but it makes for an exciting story.

Really though, Fair Trade has been biting at the heals of “organic” for the last couple of years. The Body Shop was onto this way back in the 1970’s making ethics and environmental sustainability the heart of operations.  The story behind the ingredient or packaging was as important as the functionality of the finished product. This philosophy won the hearts and minds of consumers and sent turned the Body Shop into a global phenomenon. Although the body shop has changed ownership (is now owned by L’Oreal) and Dame Anita Roddick has passed away (in 2007) the brand still remains true to its original values.

So, as the pace of the ethical march hots up what should we as consumers expect?

1) Stories.

When the coconut oil in your lip balm has been hand picked by south pacific villagers who via Direct Mico Expelling  extract the virgin oil out right there on the beach, you want to know about it!  Knowing that your non-essential purchase is helping to spread prosperity to places that most need it is not only heartening, its inspiring! Nuilife coconut is one example and I can vouch for the oils quality and enticing aroma.

2) Price  and Supply Variation.

The great thing about fair trade is that it is helping out boutique farmers and farming communities. This means that prices and availability may vary with the season.  While this may seem painful to those used to picking up the same moisturiser at the same price all year around, the seasonality should be celebrated. Think of the joy of seeing the first strawberries of the season or the crispy freshness of apple season.

3) Certification.

As the demand for  Fair Trade products grows, the number of certification bodies and organisations will follow suit. If Fair Trade is anything like “Organic”  deciphering each Fair Trade providers ethics will take patience and a degree in de-jargoning!  My advice is check out the certification website to make sure that you are getting what you pay for. Most people in the Fair Trade game are in it to make a positive difference to their trading partners so there is little chance of being “ripped off”, however, some causes may touch your heart more than others so getting more information never hurts.

tribes and nations

One of my favorite fair trade online stores in Australia is Tribes and Nations. Grant and Mignonne spent many years working out in Tanzania before coming back to Australia and setting up their Fair Trade business.  There are some great Fair Trade products around and I believe that in these times of economic downturn we should strive to make each dollar count. Are you with me?

It would be great to hear your thoughts or fair trade stories – they don’t need to be extreme, in fact they should probably be just quietly going about their business just like most Fair Trade ambassadors…..