With Fair Trade spreading like wildfire in the United States, people shopping for flowers for the Valentine’s Day holiday and for the forthcoming Spring (a season that, while only a little more than a month away, seems a year away in these relentless and near-record-setting snowy days here in Green Bay, Wisconsin) are being heartened to see that the Oakland, California-based TransFair USA, which is the nation’s singular third-party certifier of Fair Trade products, has now begun to market flowers that are Fair Trade certified.
Having been first introduced in Europe in 2001, Fair Trade Certified flowers’ sales have grown by approximately 30 percent every year since that introduction onto the global market. The retail value Fair Trade Certified products including flowers in the United States exceeded $730 million last year. Sector analysts predict that sales will exceed $2.2 billion by the year 2012.
The fact of the matter is that, contrary to popular American belief, most commercially available flowers, such as Valentine’s Day roses, are grown outside of the U.S., typically in developing nations with economies that are still highly rural and agricultural, such as Ecuador, Colombia, and Gambia.
What a label reading "Fair Trade Certified" means to the workers who grow, cut, and ship these precious flowers, and for those of us who receive them, is that it is guaranteed to them that they are receiving fair wages and fair time off–as in a wage, vacation time, paid sick days, and working hours that are recognized as "fair" with respect to the work they do in the eyes of the international community of developed nations, including the United States. What’s more, it is guaranteed that these workers are adequately trained in the handling of agricultural chemicals and receive adequate protective accoutrements. As the majority of developing world workers in the flower industry are women, the Fair Trade Certification also guarantees that they receive fair maternity leave with pay
The Certification also rewards the businesses that produce the flowers. These will receive roughly a 10 percent premium per sale, which is charged to the consumer at the point of sale. This premium gives them money to grow their businesses and to put into their communities in order to make them wealthier.
A Hartman Group study has determined that at least 73 percent of American consumers are confident that buying Fair Trade products has a strong positive impact on the world and most are quite happy to pay the 10 percent premium.
26-year-old Miranda Paul, who owns the Worldgoods Fair Trade here in Green Bay, says that Fair Trade product marketing allows artisans and workers to actually afford to run their businesses and give themselves and their children a well-fed life and a better education than they otherwise would under a trading system that, previously, compelled so many of them to sell their goods to the U.S. at less than cost.
"The customers want that choice to do something that is compassionate and helpful to others with their purchases," says Paul.