Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletJune 17, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Shop with Respect: Shop Fair Trade by Sister Betsy Van Deusen, CSJ

      Two little words can really make a huge difference! During Alfredo=s time with us he discussed how the goal of the market system and economics is to make money and continue to make money, but he challenged me to look at the collective whole and the ways in which each of us has a role in making different choices that will lead ultimately to the greater good. In our acts of chapter, we hear of our collective power for mission. We have power; sometimes, it seems that the issues are too big, that we have little influence, and that what difference does it make anyway.

One way that all of us engage the world is in purchasing food and other goods. We go to the store, and we buy food and household products and gifts. The two little words to which I referred in the first paragraph are free and fair. Our world markets are based on free trade, charge what the market can bear and make as much as they can. The farther a person is from the consumer, (you and me) the less money that person makes. This is where the idea of fair trade comes in.

AFair trade, a new model of international trade, is built on right relationships between us and the people overseas who create the items we consume B relationships that respect human dignity, promote economic justice and cultivate global solidarity.@ (Catholic Relief Services)

In other words, we can live into our Catholic social teaching regarding fair wages, cooperative workplaces, environmental sustainability, respect for cultural identity and public accountability. We can purchase our food or gift or coffee or chocolate with the understanding that the farmer who produced the bean or the woman who wove that garment made a fair wage, so that they can support their families with dignity. Every item is not a fair-trade product, but the list is growing.

You might ask, ADoesn=t it cost more?@ The answer is Asometimes,@ but the challenge is an invitation to us to look at how we are spending our money. Are we supporting the multinationals like Kraft, Best Foods and General Mills whose stockholders want profits and who have little concern for the producer, or are we choosing to work with small cooperatives, grassroots programs and small farmers? We do have a choice, and the choice matters! As each decision for fair trade is made, another family is able to live with dignity and sufficiency.

Many fair-trade products are available at your local grocery store. Look for the fair-trade symbol on this page, and consider your choices.

Since 2002, the second Saturday in May has been designated World Fair-Trade Day. With this day quickly approaching (May 12), check out the websites of Catholic Relief Services ( Divine Chocolate and Work of Human Hands are two of their programs, or look up the Fair-Trade Federation=s site ( to locate retailers near you and to learn more about fair-trade products. 

AWe all have to go shopping. Fair-trade is simply shopping with respect.@ (Mr. Kwabena Ohemeng-Tinase, managing director, Kuapa Kokoo cocoa farmers= cooperative, Ghana)


(May 2007)