Fair Trade and Macro Social Work

It is that time of year again! We are in the full swing of things already at campus, and I am sure many students have already been back for weeks!
I am entering into my final year for my undergrad in social work.  Part of my curriculum is an internship which I have the privilege of completing at Fair Trade America.  Most people turn an eyebrow when they hear that.  Fair Trade? What is that? How does that relate to social work?

Most people, when they think of social workers, they think of them in a micro  setting.  Meaning, the professional interacting with clients, whether it be counseling, helping them find housing, social services, health care, etc.  This mental picture is not wrong, however, it is not the entire picture.  That is one of the things I have grown to love about social work.  Not only is this a huge part of the profession, there are also two other levels, mezzo and macro. 

Mezzo takes a step back and instead of looking at an individual, mezzo social work helps groups.  This group could be as small as a family or as large as a school or business.

Macro social work takes an even further step back.  Macro typically gets overlooked (including by myself at first) at even being “social work”.  Macro social work professionals can serve in many roles.  Some may decide in leadership roles in communities or organizations such as the American Red Cross, or others may work government assistance programs.  This can also include advocacy, policy work, and political lobbying.  Macro social work may also involve organizing community efforts, leading community development initiatives or planning interventions to reduce poverty, increase literacy or end human trafficking.

And that is where Fair Trade America comes in! Again you ask, what is it? Fair Trade is a global system, and the largest, most recognized fair trade system with more than 30 international offices.

The sad, harsh truth is that an alarming amount of our everyday products like coffee, sugar, cotton, chocolate, and more is produced through slave and child labor. Thankfully, there is already a system in place to make it easier for consumers to avoid supporting this inhumane reality-Fair Trade!  When you see the Fair Trade seal on a product, you can enjoy with peace that you are supporting small farmers who are treated with respect, dignity and actually paid for their hard work.

“The benefits of Fairtrade go beyond just extra income for farmers – they also address issues like Gender Equality and Climate Change. The Standards ban Child Labor and protect Workers’ Rights. Read our case studies about how Fairtrade impacts the lives of people in farming communities around the world.”- Fair Trade America

Global social work has been such a huge passion of mine for so long, before I even realized it could be classified as “social work”!  I have been an advocate for years about the truth behind our products and how we as a society can use our dollars to vote for a better world.  Call me crazy, but I truly believe we as individuals have a lot of power just by choosing what products we purchase.  So, next time you are grocery shopping, take a minute to think about who and what you are supporting.  It takes time to make the adjustment, but once you switch to Fair Trade- you cannot go back-the quality of Fair Trade is incredible compared to conventional products!

ft banner


If you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out! The lovely team in DC can be reached at the info below.  I also highly recommend signing up for their newsletter!

Email: questions@fairtradeamerica.org

Phone: 202.391.0525

Mailing Address: 1400 Eye Street NW, Suite 425, Washington, DC 20005, USA

Find us on: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram / LinkedIn / Youtube

To get regular updates, news, and more from Fairtrade America, subscribe to our e-newsletter.


Why Fair Trade and Sustainable Living

You’ve heard all these words-Fair Trade, sustainable, ethical-but what do they all mean? Where do you even start learning how to live a sustainable life that supports ethical practices? Why should you even want to start looking at labels when shopping? The point of this article is to compile some extra resources for you to explore through on your own. However, I will be providing a brief overview of these topics. Please click on the links to learn more on why you should start shopping Fair Trade and sustainably!

Fair Trade: This is an umbrella term that refers to labels that ensure that the products and/or ingredients were created by people who were paid a fair price for their work. There are five major labels that are under this umbrella term. Fair Trade Federation, Fair Trade Certified, Fair Trade Federation, World Fair Trade Organization, and Fair for Life.See the source image

These labels can be found on pretty much everything. The most important things to buy fair trade is chocolate, coffee, and cotton. You can find these labels on sugar, tea, bath and body products, produce, apparel and accessories, even wine and vodka! Rest assured that when you purchase a product with one of these labels that the people behind the products were treated fairly and paid a living wage for the work.

Further information:
The episode “Bitter” from the Netflix original “Rotten”.
The Dark Side of Chocolate documentary.
What is Fair Trade video.
Child Labor and Slavery in the Chocolate Industry article.
Sustainable: This term is more commonly used when it comes to clothing. The clothing industry has a harsh, inhumane background, much like chocolate and coffee. Not only are factory workers typically not paid or treated well, the chemicals produced by the production is released into the atmosphere and poured into streams causing detrimental effects on our environment. These problems are traced all the way back from the farming of the cotton and the pesticides sprayed onto the fields. Not to mention the synthetic fibers that pollute the rivers and oceans. There is also the issue that in the United States alone ore than 15 million tons of used textile waste is generated each year.
Thankfully, there are brands that are committed to reducing their footprint on this earth.

Image result for sustainable labels

When researching companies and trying to determine whether or not they are sustainable, look at the company as a whole. Typically, companies that are dedicated are very clear about it and their goals as a business. Some brands like H&M claim sustainability efforts but have little to show for it. Meanwhile brands like PACT Apparel are clear about their carbon footprint, their water reduction and have their products made with organic cotton sewn in a fair trade certified factory.  I have purchased from them many times and they are so dedicated that if you have a return, they usually will refund you and tell you to keep or give the item to a friend to reduce their carbon imprint by having it shipped back. Proof that they are more concerned with our planet than profit.
Further resources:
The True Cost movie.
Overdressed: The shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion book. (This book is excellent and a very easy read. It was very interesting while insightful).
The Ethics of Fast Fashion article.
Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion movie. (This is not in English, so you have to pay close attention to the subtitles. However, it is SO worth the time to watch. This is truly what changed everything for me).

If you read the articles and watch the movies, you will see the consistent pattern of women, men and children being worked 5-7 days a week from 7A.M until late after 8P.M. There is no rest in this industry. The work is dangerous and often the workers are paid pennies a day. Not only is this bad for physical health, but also mental health. We need time for rest, proper nutrition and financial stability in order to live a healthy life. This is impossible for these workers.  How can you help? Keep up with the #FairTradeMovement, #FashionRevolution and #WhoMadeMyClothes hashtag. First step is to stop buying from brands who have repeatedly been caught abusing the human rights of sweatshop workers. Start buying used and second hand clothing in order to stop supporting them. Buy from sustainable and ethically sourced brands, or even better, products that are made in the U.S.A.  Next, write letters to brands like GAP, H&M, American Eagle, Aeropostle, Walmart, and others.  Together, we CAN make a difference.

As someone who recognizes her privilege, I refuse to support brands that disrespect the human rights of the people who make my clothing. I hope you will stand with me too.I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to email me at junebugcleary@gmail.com.

Take Action:

Fair Trade and Gender Equality

Women around the world grow 60-80 percent of the world’s food.  That is over half the food in your refrigerator or pantry. The problem? These women often times do not even own the land they grow work on and see very little profit from it. Thankfully, Fair Trade works to address this issue (Gender Equality, 2019).

Women’s roles in agriculture has increased over time for various reasons. However, women are less likely to have access to information and education, credit and technical assistance, land, etc., which results in the “gender gap”.  Knowing that 60-80 percent of our food is grown by women, this poses a global threat as populations increase and the demand for food increases (Gender Strategy, 2019). It is important that we close this gap for many reasons. For one, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that closing the gender gap in agricultural yields would reduce the number of undernourished people by 100-150 million, and could even increase agricultural output in developing countries by between 2.5 and 4 percent (Gender Strategy, 2019). That is HUGE!

So, how does Fair Trade help?

A few of the requirements for organizations that have the Fair Trade seal include the following:

>No discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status

>Zero tolerance of behavior that is sexually intimidating, abusive or exploitative

>No testing for pregnancy when recruiting workers

>Programs to support disadvantaged and minority groups, such as women

>Developing a gender policy, over time (Gender Equality, 2019).

Fair Trade Standards also require democratic decision-making processes that give women an equal voice in the governance of their communities and workplaces (Six Ways…2018). The Gender equality standard also teaches men within the organization to help promote gender equality within their business and communities.

Take a look at the following video made by women cocoa producers in Côte d’Ivoire. The title is “‘Growing our cocoa, raising our voices’

For more information, please visit the Fair Trade site.


Gender equality. (2019, August 19). Retrieved from https://www.fairtrade.net/issue/gender-equality.

Gender strategy 2016-2020: Transforming equal opportunity, access and benefits for all. (2019, August 18). Retrieved from https://www.fairtrade.net/library/gender-strategy-2016-2020.

Six Ways Fairtrade is Pressing for Progress on Gender Equality. (2018, March 7).   Retrieved October 7, 2019, from http://fairtradeamerica.org/Media-Center/Blog/2018/March/Six-Ways-Fairtrade-is-Pressing-for-Progress-on-Gender-Equality.

Ethical Baking Goodies List

Ethical Goodies List

(Most if not all can be found at your local grocery stores or cooperative.  If not, you can check out the Natural Candy Store or google the brands websites!)

Fair Trade and ethically sourced products tend to be a little higher in price.  However, the quality is much, much higher than conventional products. Plus, most brands, unless specifically stated organic, sustainably /ethically sourced or Fair Trade, use child labor, slavery, and make their laborers work in horrible, inhumane conditions. Children often are forced to work from 6am. until late in the evening and are frequently forced to use tools like chainsaws….  So, by supporting the brands listed below you are taking a stand against these conditions and using your dollars to vote for a better world! If you cannot find much information on the brand you are researching, I can almost guarantee they are not ethically sourced.  Brands like Mars chocolate have made empty promises to be sustainably sourced by 2020 but have made few moves to do so. Many companies are very secretive about where their ingredients come from.
Please take a look at how your
Food is Power.



  • Tony’s Chocolonely
  • Theo Chocolate
  • Alter Eco
  • Unreal (the equivalent of Fair Trade M&M’s!)
  • Equal Exchange
  • Endangered Species Chocolate
  • Divine Chocolate
  • Green & Black’s


  • Theo Chocolate has Fair Trade  peanut butter cups-great alternative to Reeses Cups. These usually can be found at Martins or Giant
  • Unreal can be found at Target, The Common Market, and Martins.  Great Fair Trade alternative to M&M’s to add some color to your goodies!
  • Wholesome has organic and sometimes Fair Trade gummies, lollipops, and even sugar at comparable prices at nearly any grocery store you go to.

There are so many ethically sourced goodies out there, but these have been my favorite over the years. Let me know in the comments what YOUR favorite brand is!

Fair Trade is…Social Work?

We as professional and student social workers of a responsibility to follow our Code of Ethics that we agree to follow by pursuing a career in the field.  We have the responsibility to challenge social injustice, address social problems, and respect the dignity and worth of a person as well as empower our clients. As we know, unthinkable tragedies revolve around our chocolate, sugar, coffee and clothing.  People are trafficked, abused and children are even forced to work for next to nothing a day.  Most companies, if not all, are fully aware of this, yet turn a blind eye for the sake of profit.  We as consumers in turn are able to purchase cheaper products…but at what cost?

After knowing how my products are made, I cannot in good conscious by conventional sugar, coffee, chocolate or clothing, I just can’t.  Especially after committing to follow my professions code of ethics. So… what do I do?

According to the National Association of Social Work (NASW) international social work is “The functions of social work in international development are diverse. They include direct services in communities, refugee camps, orphanages, hospitals, and schools, as well as supporting the efforts of national governments, intergovernmental organizations, and nongovernment organizations to enhance social well-being.”

You have seen me talk about Fair Trade…a LOT, but let me insert a little reminder.  Fair Trade “enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, fishermen, consumers, industry, and the earth…”  They also believe “…that everyone wants to do what’s right – for their families, fellow global citizens, and the planet… Based on the simple idea that the products we buy and sell are connected to the livelihoods of others, fair trade is a way to make a conscious choice for a better world. A choice for Fair Trade Certified™ goods is a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.”

In short, Fair Trade works with communities, farmers, and their families all around the world.  Fair Trade may or may not have licensed, professional social workers on staff, however, in a way, Fair Trade as an organization is a form of macro social work, creating healthy, respectful, fair working environments for workers.  Therefore, as a social worker, you can be confident in following our code of ethics and purchasing your everyday items by seeking the Fair Trade seal.


If you have additional questions or concerns, please follow the links provided in the article or leave a comment.  Thanks!

Fair Trade-The Social Movement

Imagine waking up every morning and living a life that is not your own.  Imagine being beaten, stripped of your dignity, deprived food, water, shelter, money, and education. That’s the reality of modern-day slavery. You are forced to do one task, all day for at least 12 hours a day, with little to no pay. Most people when hearing the word “human trafficking” they automatically think of sex trafficking.  However, this can include housekeeping, forced marriage, carrying water, fishing, performing sexual activities, harvesting crop, sewing, etc, etc.

Sadly, this is the reality for over 40 million people globally.  Thankfully, there are dozens of organizations trying to combat modern day slavery.  One of the biggest ways people have fought to work against modern day slavery is through the Fair Trade Movement.

The Fair Trade movement began back in 1946 when a woman named Edna Ruth Byler began importing needlecrafts from low income women in South America.  She laid the groundwork for the first Fair Trade organization, the Mennonite Central Committee.  Closely followed by SERRV International, in 1949, both organizations had a goal to develop fair trade supply chains in developing countries.  The products were almost exclusively handicrafts sold by volunteers in “Charity Stores” or “Ethnic Shops”.

Since the 1940’s, over a million small-scale producers and workers are organized in as many as 3,000 grassroots organizations and their umbrella structures in over 70 countries in the South. The products are sold in thousands of World-shops or Fair Trade shops, supermarkets and many other sales points in the North and, increasingly, in sales outlets in the Southern hemisphere.

Now there are over 1.66 million farmers and workers spread across more than 73 countries participating in Fair trade.

With Fair trade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their future and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.

Buying Fair trade is easy. There are over 4,500 Fair trade products from coffee and tea to flowers and gold, so when you shop, look for the FAIR TRADE Mark.

Women’s March 2017

So we all know Donald Trump was elected president of the United States and sworn in on January 20th of 2017.  We also know of the many, many, sexist, racist, homophobic and degrading comments he has made over the past few months leading up to his election.  For decades he has been making degrading comments about women, from telling Esquire magazine “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” in 1991 when George HW Bush was US President, to continually bashing female actors/politicians on their appearance when he can’t win an argument on intelligence alone.  Oh, but better yet, a video was recently released from 2005 where he discusses “grabbing (women) by the p****” and stated that “when you’re a star, they let you do it”.

This is who we elected to lead us.  To lead our mothers, daughters and sisters.  I have seen many people on Facebook and other social media platforms defending him by saying “oh, that’s just what men say.  Even your husbands and boyfriend do it”.  Thank you.  Thank you for making our point for us.  We are FULLY aware that many people think it is acceptable to discuss women this way.  The point is, it SHOULD NOT BE ACCEPTABLE TO DEGRADE WOMEN ON A DAILY BASIS.  We are more than our bodies, we are more than our sex appeal, more than the makeup we may or may not wear, more than a number on a scale.  So you may make comments similar to Trump or defend him, but if you do-YOU are part of the problem.

Obviously Trump is our president, I do agree it is silly to claim that he is not.  I do not resent this fact because of the political party I side with. It is not because I believe in pro-life or pro-choice. If this march had been organized against any of the other Republicans who ran for the position, I would not have marched.  This is not about politics.  This is not Democrats against Republicans.  This is about standing up and not accepting our leader to use the language that he has in the past.  This is showing that sexism will not be accepted from anyone.  That is why I marched.

Women for decades, of every race have fought hard for where we are.  For our right to vote, to work beyond the household, and own our own property without being a piece of property ourselves.  We will not go backwards, and that is what the march was about.