Ep 98: Why Fair Trade?

An interview with family history, biblical thoughtfulness and insight into our shopping practices.
John Martin
Bible reference(s): 
James 5:1-4
Sun 29 Apr 2018
Politics and economics
Ethics, justice and social welfare

What is Fair Trade? Where did it come from? We see fair trade labels in the supermarket, but does buying fair trade products make a difference to the world's poor?

Host Rob Martin asks these questions and more to his Dad and explores his passion for fair trade and helping the global poor.

This episode was recorded at Mudgeeraba Uniting Church on the Gold Coast in July 2016.

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Bigger questions asked in the conversation

Smaller Questions

How much do you know about the global coffee industry?

What is Fair Trade and why is it needed

Coffee is very popular and produced by a large number of small producers. What impact does this have on the coffee producers themselves?

Fair Trade is an attempt to help coffee producers in this situation, so what does fair trade do?

Why do you think fair trade needed?

What distinguishes fair trade from other initiatives to help the poor?

The Harvester Judgement in Australia was a landmark industrial relations case where a minimum wage was established. The judgement determined that the minimum wage should be the “fair and reasonable" wages for an unskilled male worker that was sufficient for "a human being in a civilised community" to support a wife and three children in "frugal comfort"

Is that something of what fair trade is trying to achieve? A bit like a minimum wage on a global scale?

Fair Trade - further issues

Fair trade now certifies many billions of dollars of goods across the world, how did it begin?

Whilst fair trade is often primarily associated with coffee, fair trade is broader than just coffee isn’t it?

It all sounds very nice in theory, but aside from making us feel a bit better - what difference does it make? Does it actually work?

Fair Trade is not without its critics and a number of the claims of the impact of fair trade are hotly contested. Some claim that the benefits are exaggerated, the costs of certification are too high and that it doesn’t actually help the poorest of farmers. How do you respond to the criticisms of fair trade?

Is fair trade the only answer to fighting poverty?

What difference can someone listening make?

Why fair trade? Personally

What got you interested in fair trade?

What motivates you to be so passionate about fair trade?

The Bible’s answer - why fair trade?

The New Testament book of James is written almost as a form of wisdom literature - or good advice for living life well. James writes some strong words to the rich in Chapter 5.

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.

Is James saying that it’s bad to be rich?

Compared to the rest of the world, we’re very wealthy in Australia, do you think these words apply to us?

James goes on to say in verse three,

3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

The particular problem with the wealth of the recipients is outlined in verse 4,

4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

What is this passage saying?

Is there an issue of justice or even fairness here?

Isn’t this principle hard to recognise in our culture because the supply chain is often invisible to us - we just see a product and a price at the end? Is this something FairTrade attempts to overcome?

So the concerns of Fair Trade, justice and paying workers fairly, are deeply connected with the concerns of the Bible?

Big Question

So John, Dad, why fair trade?

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