Guelph is a Fair Trade Town - What Does This Mean For Your Business

by Jessica Martin & crystal wilson


Fair Trade is vitally important in today’s global economy

If you’ve been past City Hall in the last little while, you may have noticed a new flag flying in Market Square. Or maybe you’ve seen the poster announcing the good news at Planet Bean: Guelph is now a Fair Trade Town! (For more information about this designation,  Given that today is Canada Day, it seems like a great time to celebrate our joining with other cities nationwide who have received this certification, and look at what it means for those of us who do business here.

First of all, let’s look at what exactly Fair Trade means and what it accomplishes:

When Chief Adam Tampuri, Chairman of the board of Fair Trade Africa, visited Guelph, he talked about the results of farmers receiving a fair price for their goods. Fair Trade makes village schools possible, it feeds families, it clothes communities, and it communicates dignity and respect for producers and their work. In non-Fair Trade communities, farmers and farming families are often looked down on because they are poor, and their children do not want to follow in their parents’ footprints. Conversely, Fair Trade lifts farming families out of poverty and puts them in a place to be contributing community members – for this reason, children in these communities are more likely to choose to become farmers like their parents. (If these children do not become farmers, there will be fewer and fewer producers of coffee, sugar and other goods in generations to come.)

Another benefit of Fair Trade in farming communities is that it brings people of different backgrounds together. Chief Tampuri explained that in small villages, the move towards Fair Trade farming has brought men and women of different religions together to work on a shared goal – a new experience in some areas where people of different religions had considered themselves at odds with each other before this pursuit.

This is all well and good for those receiving fair compensation for their products, building legacies, and finding new ways to collaborate, but what does it mean for you and your business?

In Guelph, Fair Trade is not just a logo displayed on packaging; it’s also a value system.  Consumers everywhere, and especially here in Guelph are taking note of the social impact of the products and services they purchase, as well as those they purchase them from.   This report from BDC shows that 75% of Canadian consumers are willing to pay more for a product produced in a socially responsible way.  On the flip-side, 90% of them would stop buying from a company that engages in socially irresponsible practices.  By choosing Fair Trade items, you are making the statement that the wellbeing of someone else (the producer), their family, and their community has as much right to fair pay as you do. You are acknowledging that there is enough wealth to go around, if only we, the consumers, do not hoard more than we need.  You must not, however, embark on the journey of purchasing or selling fair trade products if you don’t intend to have your other business practices match up.  Canadian consumers are not uneducated – 9 out of 10 want to see tangible results of a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility  policy.  You cannot just talk the talk and expect to reap the benefits

So what are the practical take-aways here?

Whether you have a service based business, or a products based business you can take steps to become part of the Fair Trade movement.  I suppose the most obvious move for a business based in products is to begin stocking products that are Fair Trade Certified. For all business though, it is simply a matter of making a commitment to incorporating these products in your purchasing plans.  Do you stock your office with coffee for staff and clients?  Fill your cupboard with fair trade coffee and sugar.  Next time you choose to purchase a gift item, choose a product that has the Fair Trade certification.  Do you require employees to wear a uniform?  Make sure it is made from Fair Trade certified cotton.  Check out this list for more ideas, as well as guidance on where to buy specific products.

The extra few cents or dollars out of your pocket will make bigger difference in the community of the producer than they will here in Guelph, and they could also make a difference in your company’s bottom line.