What is fair trade?

Fair Trade is a certification process that is defined by purchasing goods at a fair and living wage. There are a variety of fair trade certification organizations including Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade International, and World Fair Trade Organization. Buying fair trade items is a way to ensure that the artisans and producers are paid a living wage, given safe working conditions, and are of legal working age. Fairly traded products also create opportunities for the community to obtain proper housing, sanitation, healthcare, and education for their children. Many products are still made utilizing sweatshops and forced labor, but fair trade is working to change that.

Check out the specific certification organizations to discover more about their standards:

Fair Trade Federation

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade International

World Fair Trade Organization

How can you tell that an item is fair trade certified?

The simplest way is to look for a Fair Trade label, similar to an organic label on many food items. Fair Trade Certification is a lengthy and potentially costly process and many wonderful producers do not seek it for those reasons. This means a product can be fairly produced and not have the Fair Trade label.

You as a consumer have the right to know how the producer of your product was treated. Ask retailers and suppliers about the labor and environmental standards behind their wares. See "What is fair trade?" above to get an idea of questions you can ask.

Why doesn't Yobel have all Fair Trade certified products?

We work on a case-by-case basis with each community project and partner organization directly. After conducting personal research involving visits, interviews with both workers and leaders, and studying for ourselves the ethics of each co-op and the way they are affecting their community, we discern whether fair trade principles are being upheld. If they are and future accountability can be ensured, we opt to carry them in our store. This process allows smaller co-ops and single family artist projects, that would normally be excluded, to be featured in our boutique. It also requires our customers to trust in our process, to engage more in asking good questions, and to become more invested in the people we choose to work with globally.

Is Yobel a 501(c)3 (nonprofit)?

No. Yobel is a social enterprise. We believe there is something to be proud of in being an ethical business that develops communities around the world and does so sustainably. 

What is the significance of the name Yobel?

Yobel is the Hebrew word for the celebration of Jubilee, a Jewish festival set to occur every 50th year. During Jubilee debts were canceled, captives were set free, and the land was restored. We love the joy and implication of this celebration and believe the heart of Yobel aligns and resonates deeply with its intention.

What's with the logo?

Yobel’s logo is a Ugandan Kob, one of the national animals of Uganda and found on the Ugandan flag. Our story began in Uganda with the people of Canaan Farm as our first micro-grant recipients and business partners. When thinking of a logo that would be original and significant, the combined beauty and strength of the Kob along with its uniqueness to Uganda immediately came to mind.

How does Yobel contribute to the end of slavery?

One of the largest contributing factors to slavery today is poverty. Yobel reduces poverty by empowering artisans to establish income generation projects through business training and fair trade principles. This lowers the potential risk of trafficking or an artisan having to indenture a child or themselves in order to survive. Also, many of Yobel’s partners provide alternatives to sweatshop labor and prostitution through dignified work in fair trade industries. When you purchase our ethical gifts or fair trade jewelry you are helping reduce global poverty. Thank you for supporting our anti-slavery work!

Is Fair Trade just another marketing ploy to get me to feel better about spending money?

The original intent of fair trade is to make lives and communities better. Some companies will use the fair trade language or logo to help sell their products, but generally it is much more than a marketing ploy.

Buying fair trade wholesale, direct trade, true trade, ethically traded, whatever you want to call it...is a way to provide life, dignity, hope and empowerment to people who would otherwise be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

We’ve seen it work in the real world. There is a difference between the person who knows they get to wake up and go to a safe job where they are paid a fair wage for their labor and the person who doesn't. That individual holds their head high, squares their shoulders, and walks with a lighter step. This is because their child is in school, their medical needs are met, their pantry is full, and their roof isn't leaking. In truth, there is hope in their future.  What an opportunity we get to give--all because we chose to spend our money a little more purposefully on ethical gifts. If we are going to spend money, why not spend it in a way that supports and empowers the producers?

When was Yobel founded?  

Yobel began as Yobel Market in May 2008 at a farmers’ market stand in Woodland Park, CO selling a shoebox full of bamboo fair trade jewelry from our first project, Canaan Farm, in Northern Uganda. Little by little we reinvested our profits, included additional product lines, and grew into who we are now. Read the full story on the About page.

How do you choose your projects?

Often our projects choose us! In the beginning, we worked with artisans with whom we personally developed relationships through our global travels. As Yobel has grown, more and more organizations and friends have come through our doors asking us to join their efforts to empower others through global trade. At that point we enter a process of discerning whether our mission, brand, and principles align. If they do, we begin to work together!

I want to start a fair trade project...any advice?

Go for it! There are a lot of people who have great ideas, but few who act on their dreams. So whatever you were made for, do it! As for empowerment through small business, that's a long conversation. Some basics to look for in beginning are:

  • Reliable and accountable local leadership
  • Good capacity for communication
  • Natural skill or traditional art
  • Good work ethic

Next, we encourage you to think true empowerment. Try to avoid creating a process that will further dependency on charity or foreign aid. Work with entrepreneurs to think of business ideas that will have a market within their own economy even if you hope to seek outside markets as well. Next, think of product ideas that will reach your desired target market (without flooding it), ideally something unique and of high quality. It can help to do this research before you begin. Determine what is a fair, living wage in the local economy and stay within it, otherwise you risk inflating the local economy. Do not make promises you cannot keep.

How much of my dollar goes to the person who made my product?

Great question! All products are purchased up front by Yobel at a rate which provides a fair living wage to the artisan (usually between 2-4 times the market price). Technically, no money from your purchase goes directly back to the artisan, the artisan has already been fairly compensated a living wage for their labor.

We utilize the standard market system, paying the artisan for their labor, paying the wholesaler for their work, and selling the product at Yobel for a reasonable mark-up (in order to invest back into the company). We believe this is a sustainable model for poverty relief, relying on already existing market structures and not dependent on donations or foreign aid.

Specific partner organizations may keep a portion of the profits to go back to benefit the artisans or their communities in some way. Products that benefit women coming from prostitution or sexual slavery are often offered counseling as a part of their work environment. Each partner organization is different.

What is the difference between fair trade and free trade?

Free trade refers to trade agreements (like NAFTA) between the United States and other developing nations (ie: Central America and Africa) for the purpose of lowering trade restrictions, customs, and duties to encourage trade with these nations and develop their economies. Critics of this legislation claim that it is a cause of American companies moving offshore, creating a loss of American jobs, and exploitation of resources and workers in developing nations.

Fair Trade seeks to assist workers within developing nations to earn a fair and living wage while ensuring the protection of local environments and providing safe working conditions. Additional Fair Trade Principles can be seen above in the “What is fair trade?” section.

What are your ethics?

Our ethics are based on fair trade principles. They are: pay justly, preserve and encourage cultural tradition, lend dignity, share success, be transparent, live with integrity, protect and improve the environment, tell the story, empower and enable, strive for excellence, admit mistakes, and act with love.