Over the past four decades, the work of socially conscious entrepreneurs and consumers has helped to turn the phrase “Fair Trade” into a household name. More than ever, consumers are paying attention to the producers of the goods that they purchase—wanting to ensure that they are working in safe conditions, receiving fair pay, and have opportunities for growth. Undoubtedly, efforts rooted in the principles of Fair Trade have resulted in improved lives for many small-scale producers in developing countries.
But, some would argue that it is time to grow beyond Fair Trade in our efforts to provide equity in the global marketplace.
In a recent article from IRIN (the news and analysis website for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), Abdullah Bagersh of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange had this to say: "Despite farmers' praise, some remain concerned that fair trade represents another form of charity that does not enable self-sufficiency. . . . Farmers must adhere to strict [fair trade] practices or risk losing the market they have committed to and become dependent on. Others argue the system splits communities along the lines of farmers who qualify for fair trade premiums and those that do not."
Blessed Coffee aspires to take that next step–improving upon Fair Trade by embracing what's best about it (fair prices, ethical treatment, sustainable practices), and then adding in the relationship building, mutual benefit and empowerment that have been missing. Blessed Coffee calls this next step Virtuous Exchange.