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52teas said

52teas and YOU. Help us give back

We’ve had some discussions here on Steepster, Facebook and Twitter about Fair Trade. I love the IDEA of Fair Trade, but I deeply distrust and have serious misgivings about the mechanics of Fair Trade.

That does not, however, mean that I don’t think we should try to do something. So here is my attempt. We’re going to try this now through January 31st and see how it goes. If there are not hiccups, maybe we will take a little time off and pick a different project or charity, or who knows. But this is what we are trying for now, and I would really appreciate it if all of our customers would take a hard look at it and give it some thoughtful consideration.

Tis the season of giving. Join us in giving back, now thru January 31st: http://www.mercycorps.org/fundraising/52teascom

12 Replies
52teas said

YAY! We got our first contribution!

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I am glad that this is continuing through January 31, so I can also contribute!

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I admire that you are trying this! Can you share what you have misgivings about with the mechanics of Fair Trade? I’m curious as a person who has a bleeding but skeptical heart too :) Feel free to PM me if you feel it’s inappropriate for the Discussions board (but since many of us like buying Fair Trade tea, I think it’s a good one to have on here – but I digress!)

I had a really interesting class this semester, and from what I learned, Fair Trade is one of the alternative ways that countries can develop without the use of the World Bank, etc which has such exorbitant interest rates that sometimes they are in worse shape after they borrowed than they were before they borrowed. It’s a more self sufficient sustainable model, although slower.

I too am glad this is going on til Jan 31 so I can get a donation and order in. Literacy is a great cause and being able to read does make a great difference not only in the lives of the women, but their children as well – and their children – and their children :)

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52teas said

Essentially (and quickly because my wife is mad at me because we are supposed to be going with the three year old to go see Barney here in a few—ugh)…

The importer I work with told me any of their teas could be “Fair Trade” and that I just needed to pay an extra $1 per pound. This just really didn’t sit well with me. There were no assurances about where the money was going, how much of it would actually impact the workers, nothing. Just, add $1/lb and you can say your tea is Fair Trade. It just smelled fishy to me.

Whaaaat? That is completely backwards! Items are supposed to be fair trade if they are produced at a fair wage to the worker, and also under fair working conditions. I would assume the wages have already been paid and work conditions already determined on a tea if the tea has made it to the importer. I too would be wary of this particular importer and his or her “Fair Trade” items. From what I see, to be fair trade certified is a pretty specific process:

http://www.transfairusa.org/content/certification/tea_program.php

http://www.transfairusa.org/content/Downloads/Tea_Impact_2009.pdf

I hope you had a good time at Barney :) and I look forward to supporting the literacy project!

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Yeah… that smells very fishy to me too.

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52teas said

The thing is, this was from a VERY reputable, established importer. I actually spoke to another equally well-known importer and confirmed that they operate the same way. I just don’t like the idea of not really knowing if that extra money is going where it is supposed to.

All in all, I just think supporting projects like this literacy project and allowing our customers to maximize their VOLUNTARY contributions through our matching program is just a better deal all the way around than forcing customers to pay a ransom for their tea by insisting that it’s inhumane to do otherwise. The whole program just reeks of good intentions gone wrong to me.

Mercy Corps has a GREAT track record of excellent stewardship of money contributed to their projects (if you want more information about that, check out http://www.mercycorps.org/stewardship ).

Oh, and Barney was fabulous! Not. But it’s over and Millie sure enjoyed it. (What is the connection between kids and dinosaurs?)

I totally understand where you are coming from, and I agree that the Mercy Corps project in Assam seems like a great way to give back in a tea related fashion. I’m in :)

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I think what you are doing is really great and also very responsible. However, I cannot let the poor view of fair trade discussed here go. Fair trade and donating to charities are just two completely different things, neither better or worse than the other.

Fair trade is by no means a perfect system but it is a good system and a necessary system. While it seems that your experience with wholesalers has not been good it does not summarize the entire fair trade system. It seems like it might be time to find a more honest wholesaler.

52teas said

I can only reiterate what I mentioned above. The TWO separate importers I questioned about Fair Trade practices were BOTH highly reputable, long-standing institutions in the tea industry. It’s not a matter of dishonest wholesalers; if anything they were more honest with me than I imagine they would have been with a typical customer. I’m not saying that they would not have done their part and passed the money along to the appropriate agency. (The second importer I spoke to told me frankly that they didn’t really care for the system themselves, and when I asked them what assurances they could give me that the money was going to the appropriate parties and that it was carefully stewarded. Their response: “Well, we can’t give you those assurances, and that’s exactly it.”)

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I just made a donation on this Winter Solstice day. Symbolic in so many ways! Here’s to the women of Assam learning how to read, and to Frank for making this opportiunity to help a small bit possible.

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52teas said

I got sidetracked and failed to get around to: A) matching the contributions received like I said we would and B) updating you guys on how much money we raised.

Well, I just corrected A and as for B… Thanks to your generous contributions, together we raised $150 to Empower Women In India Through Literacy.

I was just reading somewhere online that today (well, I guess technically yesterday since we just passed midnight here) is/was International Women’s Day and it reminded me of our project.

Perhaps some other day we will start a similar matching campaign. For now, if you would like to give, the fund-raising page is still up and taking donations at: http://www.mercycorps.org/fundraising/52teascom

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