On a recent bright Bangalore morning our autos crawled and jolted through the infamous city gridlock to reach the Fairtrade India office in Shivajinagar.
Yes, we were there to ooh and ahh over all their latest certified Fairtrade goodies. Yes, we were in great need of their recommendations for the best nearby dosa on offer (MTR on Commercial Street – heaven!).
But more than that, it was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with our close compadres in this movement for change we feel so passionately about, and to plan out some ideas for bringing even greater awareness of Fairtrade to consumers here in India.
The foundations of Fairtrade involvement in India are deep: for many years, there has been success in exporting selected agricultural material to established fair trade markets in Europe and the US. But what about the domestic market? What about the potential for real, large-scale impact and a movement for consumer change that would enable more and more farmers to switch to lifesaving fair trade and organic practices? It was this conviction that led both No Nasties and Fairtrade International to join with activists from across India for a dynamic grassroots exploration of how best to start involving domestic consumers in the movement and no longer concentrating purely on exports from the country.
What exactly does fair trade mean? Fair trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.
By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the Fairtrade Minimum Price or Cost of Sustainable Production), fair trade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminate against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives. In addition to fair prices, producers are paid an extra Fairtrade Premium which can only be spent collectively; this dialogue has been transformational in bringing people together to fund projects that benefit the whole community – from water resource management to healthcare, education and training.
A growing movement
For us at No Nasties and our buddies at Fairtrade India, creating awareness and a sense of responsibility towards our farmers in India has always been a high priority. You can make such a difference through your shopping choices. Fairtrade India started out working with a handful of brands (No Nasties was proud to be India's first Fairtrade licensed clothing company!) and in the years that have followed there has been an increasingly excellent uptake from young businesses in the fields of cotton, tea, spices and rice.
Consumer engagement with the movement is really growing.
The Fairtrade Towns initiative has come to India, kicking off with Pondicherry and Auroville. The concept of Fairtrade Towns can set the whole community's imagination off and there's been so much to collaborate on with Fair Trade Forum - India and the World Fair Trade Organisation too. Kotagiri in the Nilgiris is also lining up to play a big role, recently becoming the first township in South Asia to have the Town Panchayat pass a motion in favour of fair trade.
Schools and universities have long been an important ground for Fairtrade internationally and it's super encouraging to see engagement at this level in India too. Institutions in Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore are leading the way, with Christ University in Bangalore focusing on fair trade, specifically issues of cotton farming and sustainable fashion, for their social action week last year.
How to get involved?
Start Here! Well the fact you're right here on nonasties.in is a good sign ;) If you're in the market for some 100% certified Fairtrade Organic cotton goodness we can help you out!
There's More! But we're not just about shameless promo – we are huge advocates of buying second hand, swapping clothes with friends and taking excellent care of your wardrobe so it really lasts. We love to support other brands too and Fairtrade India also certifies Do U Speak Green, Samtana and the super cute baby-wear company Sense Organics.
Join the Revolution! Connect with Fashion Revolution India to stay up to date with all the latest ethical fashion happenings in the country and beyond.
Switch! Consider making some easy switches in your grocery shopping too. From tea to rice and spices like turmeric and pepper, Fairtrade India advises on where you can easily pick up these items – lots of them are available online in additional to stores in major cities. We have it on good authority that Fairtrade chocolate is also coming soon in India!
- Too cool for school? Getting your school or office involved is a really great way to make a big difference with a small change. Just think about how much tea and coffee is consumed every day, and the impact you could have as an institution if that was all Fairtrade! How about a bake sale with certified ingredients? A tuck shop? Getting the PTA's support in schools? Remember, you VOTE WITH YOUR WALLET!
- Suit Up! If your business gifts branded t-shirts or has staff who wear a uniform, would you consider switching to fairly traded cotton? We'd love to help advise you on how to do so.
- Lastly, watch out for official events. This very weekend there's an online gaming championship in Bangalore in partnership with Zomato and Fairtrade India – for real! Check out the Facebook event here. And come November, there are big plans for a week of special events focusing on the Power of You (and you and you and you!) from the 21st to 27th. YOU really can make a big impact on the lives of marginal farmers and their whole communities by making simple, small changes in your life.
Buy a regular t-shirt, or regular rice, or regular tea, and you support the current industry. Buy organic and Fairtrade and you support a change. You don't need to alter your lifestyle to help. Do what you normally do, wear what you like to wear - just make informed decisions and choose well.
Look good, feel good, and do No Nasties.
Read up, read up!
Big thanks to Abhishek Jani of Fairtrade India for sharing his thoughts and plans with us for this blog post, and for many of the awesome images in this post.