It’s about convictions. People go out of their way every day to make a choice for something they want- a trip to the gym in order to be kind to their heart, a trip to the couch in order to catch their favorite show. And for every choice, there is also a giving up of something else. In my life it’s usually time, the commodity I trade most regularly. And if you look at how you spend your time, it’s always a reflection of what you value. But the same is true of money. If you look at how you spend it, you’ll have a clear window into what you care about.
I want to care about people, and I hope to live that out in principle as well as theory. We said one of our values was integrity in every process. It is really a privilege to build your own small business where you get to pick what ingredients you use and be in charge of from where they’re sourced. If you have buying power, you have power. And if you have power, you can use it to serve others and make an impact that matters.
Around 70% of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa. In the process of growing and harvesting the cocoa, children have often been forced to work against labor laws (1). Additionally, many women are taken advantage of, receiving less pay than men and finding it harder to have access to buy their own land then men (2). And the men, even if they’re making more than women, are still not being paid enough to get above the poverty line (3). (So sorry, I couldn't get it it to do small footnotes in this blog!)
Fair Trade is a relatively recent convention. It’s true that its results may not be only positive. If you read about it, you’ll see a common criticism is that only wealthier farms have the skills and resources available to become fair trade certified, so that buying fair trade can actually take away livelihood from the poorest farmers. But at least if you buy fair trade, you’re buying into higher pay for the harvesters, gender equality where men and women are paid equally for the same job and inspectors who see that child labor laws are enforced, enabling children to head to the schools instead of the fields. I’m no expert, but it’s better than not doing anything. And if some people can receive better pay, better access to water, and better access to education because of it, I want to make sure it’s what we’re spending our buying power on.
So when we opened, I began to choose our ingredients. Kristy, our other manager, helped me be mindful of all things fair trade. She found us “Choco dream” A Belgian Fair Trade Chocolate Hazlenut spread. That’s why at Neighborhoods, when you order a Sweet Simplicity, you won't get Nutella. And when you order a homemade chocolate chip cookie, every chocolate chip in that 100 grams of homemade cookie (we use my mother-in-law’s recipe by the way) is fair trade. And that’s true of our tea and our coffee too. In theory, everyone says people are more important than things, so let’s put it in practice together. Whenever you use your buying power on our coffee, tea, homemade pastries with chocolate chips or crepes with fair trade hazelnut spread, you’re not just supporting a local small business, you’re valuing fair trade for the people behind the product.
1. https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/equality-for-women-starts-with-chocolate-mb-260213.pdf 2. https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/equality-for-women-starts-with-chocolate-mb-260213.pdf 3. https://www.laborrights.org/industries/cocoa 4. https://wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade 5. https://www.laborrights.org/industries/cocoa