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Fair Trade activist Katie Bond is the founder of The Peace Exchange, an international fair trade non-profit based here in Southern California. I recently had the privilege of interviewing her and expanding my knowledge of fair trade principles and practices, as well as gaining greater insight into what it means to run a Fair-Trade Certified organization.
The Making of a Fair Trade Organization
Fair trade proves that some amazing things can happen when we seek equity among all, and practice understanding and kindness to all humans, whether they are our neighbors or living on the other side of the globe.
To be fully transparent, Katie also happens to be a friend of mine. We met while we were both serving on the inaugural Board of Directors of Fair Trade Long Beach, located in Long Beach, California. That is when I also grew to know her organization, The Peace Exchange, and all of the superb Fair Trade products available through the organization.
An Interview with Katie Bond of The Peace Exchange, A Fair Trade Organization
Q: Hi, Katie. Can you tell us a bit about your background in Fair Trade?
Katie: Hi! Yes, I am Katie Bond, founder of The Peace Exchange.
I have loved fair trade ever since I learned about it in college.
I first began as a volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade retail outlet that currently has more than seventy stores in the US. While I was teaching at the University, I would take college students down to volunteer with me at the store.
From that, it grew, and now, years later, I have my own non-profit working with women in Congo and Kenya.
I have also been blessed to be on various fair trade leadership teams and boards, such as Fair Trade Long Beach, Fair Trade LA and Ten Thousand Villages, Pasadena.
Q: Can you provide our readers with some detail about what it means to be a Fair Trade organization?
Katie: The Fair Trade Federation (an accrediting group we belong to) states:
“Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.
Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.”
You can read more about the history of fair trade, answers to some commonly asked questions and the truth about some myths on the Fair Trade Federation website.
Q: We hear a lot about Fair Trade standards. What exactly does that mean?
Katie: Taken from The Peace Exchange website, “10 Principles of Fair Trade (World Fair Trade Organization)”: WFTO prescribes 10 Principles that Fair Trade Organizations must follow in their day-to-day work and carries out monitoring to ensure these principles are upheld:
- Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers
- Transparency and Accountability
- Fair Trading Practices
- Payment of a Fair Price
- Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor
- Commitment to Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Freedom of Association
- Ensuring Good Working Conditions
- Providing Capacity Building
- Promoting Fair Trade
- Respect for the Environment
Q: How did the Fair Trade movement come about?
Katie: Fair Trade’s most credited pioneer is Edna Ruth Byler.
In the 1940’s Mrs. Byler volunteered for the MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) and visited Puerto Rico where she saw women making hand-made crafts. She would buy their work and bring items back to where she lived in Pennsylvania, and sell their goods from the trunk of her car and at her local church. Mrs. Byler continually returned to Central and South America to support these women artisans and promote their craft.
Her work continually expanded, and in 1958 she opened her first fair trade shop, the one we now know as Ten Thousand Villages. Ten Thousand Villages has become the largest fair trade chain store in North America.
Q: How can a shopper know for sure if a product is Fair Trade?
Katie: There are 3 certifying bodies for fair trade. Look for the label that says Fair Trade Certified – if it doesn’t say fair trade, do your research and find alternatives that are fair trade.
Q: Is there a benefit to buying fair trade? Why should people seek out fair trade certified products?
Katie: Buying fair trade shortens the supply chain, helps the environment and builds a stronger global economy.
It gives a direct income to women and men in developing regions where money earned can help support their families and pay for school fees for children.
Q: What are some examples of fair trade products for the home and where can they be purchased? Are there on-line sources or is it all local shops?
Katie: Fair Trade has become more and more mainstream, and it’s getting easier to find fair trade products all the time.
From candles to coffee to olive oils to napkins and market bags, you can almost find anything fair trade, and the quality is excellent.
My non-profit, The Peace Exchange, offers unique jewelry items from Kenya and household items from Congo. And like many other fair trade retailers, we do have a website. Take a look at our on-line store to see our many products.
Q: Do Fair Trade Products cost more? Why?
Katie: Fair Trade costs slightly more because artisans are paid a fair living wage and the supply chain is shortened. Yet, the small amount you pay more for quality fair trade products is nothing compared to the difference you are making on a global scale.
Those few cents can help keep families together with a roof over their heads, pay for much needed medical treatments, and fight human trafficking. Absolutely worth it!
You can learn more about Katie and her products by visiting her at The Peace Exchange.
- Understanding the Basics of Fair Trade
- How to Identify Fair Trade Products
- Remarkable Fair Trade Brands: Friday Favorites
- Gift Guide: Fair Trade Bath Products
Final Thoughts on What You Need to Know About Fair Trade Organizations
Katie, and other Fair Trade leaders like her, clearly believes in her mission. And why not? She provides high-quality, desirable products while creating economic opportunities for those who would otherwise be disadvantaged. She fights child and slave labor and human trafficking with every order.
And she has wonderful products – I highly encourage you to see for yourself.
Products from The Peace Exchange are exclusive and can be found only in select boutiques in Southern California and online.