Fair Trade Campaigns National Conference: A Recap

Over a beautiful March weekend, Green America’s Social Justice Campaigns Manager, Caroline, and Executive Co-Director of Consumer and Corporate Engagement, Todd, had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Fair Trade Campaigns National Conference.

The conference brought together activists and students, producers and brands, from around the country – and around the world. Over the course of the weekend, participants explored the how to build the fair trade movement so that it is a diverse and inclusive movement; the intersection of sustainability and fair trade; how consumers can drive change through conscious consumerism (or, voting with your dollars, as we call it!); and how students can push the fair trade movement forward.

The weekend was full of interesting discussions and inspiring keynote speeches. Some of the highlights included:

  • Hearing Anjali Schiavina, the founder of Mandala Apparels, share the inspiring story behind starting a fair trade apparel company in India, and her reflections on how to empower women and their communities.  Mandala Apparel works with women farmers as well as women factory workers, and insists on providing equal pay to women and men.
  • Gleaning lessons from history and activist leaders from Dr. Marcia Chatelain, assistant professor of history at Georgetown, about how market choices have changed history and how we can use them to enact change in the present (in our current political climate, it is more important than ever to use our dollars to create the world we want to live in);
  • Listening to a panel of fair trade producers talk about how fair trade has affected them and their communities;
  • Hearing stories from college students about their s initiatives to make their campuses more sustainable, and how they are pushing their schools to adopt fairer sourcing practices;
  • Learning that the market is listening to consumers – as consumers become more conscious about where they are shopping from, more businesses are shifting how they operate;
  • And brainstorming on how fair labor advocates can reach out to new and different audiences.

Caroline spoke on a panel with Erin Mackey of Catholic Relief Services, Tim Fitzgerald of Environmental Defense Fund, and Sam Hummel of Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council, titled “Your Social Justice and Sustainability Toolkit: The Role of Fair Trade.” As people who work for organizations who have social and environmental sustainability incorporated into their work and mission, the panelists, with the help of moderator Margot Conover of Fairtrade America, engaged in a lively discussion about how others can use fair trade as a tool to achieve these principles organizationally. For instance, Caroline shared with the audience how Green Americans were able to pressure Hershey to commit to sourcing child labor-free cocoa by voting with their dollars for fair trade alternatives. Hershey’s commitment to clean up their supply chain, along with Green Americans’ commitments to support ethical chocolate, have helped improve the lives of farmers and their families and the planet.

It was a jam-packed weekend with a lot of information to absorb and reflect on. If you’re interested in catching some more highlights and to see photos of the conference, check out #FTConf2018 on your favorite social media channel, and who knows – maybe you’ll be at the next conference as well!

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