Fair trade is a movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure producers in economically disadvantaged countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers. While there are several definitions of fair trade, they all include:
- Fair Trade Price: base price for raw ingredients or goods is adjusted higher than open market price.
- Price Premium: a percentage above the base fair trade price is paid into a separate account for development projects in producer communities.
- Working Conditions: fair trade operators must adhere to basic human & labor rights, including the right to organize, no child labor, access to health care, and so on.
- Environmental Stewardship: fair trade organizations must minimize environmental impact.
To Alaffia, fair trade means paying a fair price or wage in the local context, providing equal employment opportunities, engaging in environmental sustainable practices, providing healthy and safe working conditions, being open to public accountability, and reducing the number of middlemen between producers & consumers. We believe fair trade should be environmentally, economically, and culturally sustainable and give local communities the opportunity to self-empower.
••• ALAFFIA FAIR TRADE SHEA & COCONUT •••
The cost to handcraft shea butter and coconut oil at the Alaffia Cooperative is over two times the price of these same butters at West African ports. Why is our cost higher?
- Nut prices: We pay 15-25% above market price for shea nuts.
- Fair wages: Our cooperative members receive a salary more than 4 times the average family income in Togo.
- Benefits: Cooperative members also receive full medical care, employment security, and one month of paid vacation each year.
••• WHAT DOES FAIR TRADE MEAN? •••
Fair trade certification is an independent, neutral third party certification verifying an organization upholds fair trade, social, and environmental standards in their operations. Alaffia is certified Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade by IMO (Institute for Marketecology), one of the first and most renowned international inspection & certification agencies for organic and social (fair trade) accountability. IMO’s Fair for Life certification combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. You can read more about IMO at www.imo.ch and more about the Fair for Life certification at www.fairforlife.org.
Now, more than ever before, it is important for all of us to make decisions that take into consideration the well-being of the generations to come. To us, sustainable means making choices and actions that improve current and future living conditions for our communities while maintaining the cultural and bio-diversities of our planet, including:
- Using sustainably harvested and traditionally extracted unrefined ingredients in our skin and hair care products.
- Providing fair wages and prices to our cooperative members and farmers.
- Dedicating 10% of sales proceeds to Alaffia Empowerment Projects in West Africa
The motivation to commit to these principles comes from the hope that our actions will:
- Improve current living standards and promote gender equality and feelings of self-worth for individuals in our communities.
- Break the cycle of poverty in Africa and preserve indigenous resources and knowledge for future generations.
- Increase awareness of how individual actions and choices affect communities worldwide.
Our efforts to be environmentally sustainable are not limited to our cooperatives in West Africa. In Olympia, Washington we use the raw ingredients from Togo to produce our finished products by hand in small batches, which helps us to reduce energy consumption and increase quality. We also make careful packaging choices. We use glass wherever possible and easily recyclable HDPE and PETE plastics only for products too heavy for glass packaging. We source our packaging as close geographically to our facility as possible. In addition, our folding cartons and shipping cartons are made just 25 miles from our facility and printed in Seattle. All of these efforts help reduce our carbon consumption.
Growing up, Olowo-n'djo witnessed the hard work of his mother and the other women in his community. Though he had seven siblings and there was sometimes not enough food to feed them all, Olowo-n'djo's mother always shared what they had with other families. The importance of kindness and giving was instilled in him from a very young age.
Women are the backbone of African societies. Without their hard work, our societies would experience extreme difficulties. Despite this, women in West Africa have long been excluded from the formal education sector, which means many cannot read or write. This limits their employment opportunities. One could assist these women by donating money or helping them to ﬁnd employment, but Olowo-n’djo and Rose knew this process would not create sustainable communities. Alafﬁa’s women’s cooperatives celebrate what these women have to offer -- their unique skills, traditions, and knowledge. They are compensated a fair wage for their skills and are able to support their families, while maintaining traditions and managing a sustainable resource. Alaffia’s Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade Certification confirms Alaffia meets standards concerning fair working conditions, environmental performance, and community relations. Unlike other fair trade certifications, Fair for Life focuses additionally on local conditions, fair prices, social empowerment, and direct support by means of a Fair Trade Development Fund.
Shea butter and coconut oil serve as the main ingredient in most Alafﬁa products. Raw shea butter and coconut oil are shipped to Olympia, Washington where Rose formulates effective ingredient combinations using plant and other natural materials to create the ﬁnished products.
••• MORAL BEGINNINGS •••
Every day we hear news about natural and man-made disasters, wars, environmental degradation - and it is easy to become pessimistic about humanity and the future. Problems include, but are not limited to:
- Growing disparities between those who have and those who have not
- Increasing populations while resources continue to decline
- Gender inequality, child poverty, even child trafficking and slavery abound
- Degraded, abused environments that are losing resiliency and ability to recover
- Global climate change is disrupting formerly predictable rain patterns and water availability
But at the same time, we live in an age of unparalleled communication and dialog between communities across the world. The global connections give us advantages and opportunities as individuals to make changes for the better. Furthermore, information is readily available to most everyone in the world - and when informed, we can do anything.
••• OUR MORAL DUTY •••
We firmly believe that it is our duty as educated, healthy, and determined individuals to take advantage of information and communication to work towards bettering the conditions of people and communities who are not so advantaged. We also understand that truly eradicating poverty, gender inequality or environmental collapse requires cooperation and action by all levels of society - individuals, governments, organizations of every scope and scale. However, until this occurs, we have pledged our lives to what we can do - helping our communities in West Africa sustain themselves through the fair trade of their indigenous resources. The more each of us can do, the closer we are to everyone working together.
"Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time, and is a major concern of the international community. Ending this scourge will require the combined efforts of all, governments, civil society organizations and the private sector, in the context of a stronger and more effective global partnership for development."
- United Nations Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon