Fair Trade and Catholicism


What’s your opinion on Fair Trade? Does it make a substantial difference in the lives of the poor? Is it in line with Catholic Teaching on social justice? Do you go out of your way to shop from companies that are Fair Trade?


I’m confused. Is this a “fair trade” discussion in the social justice category, or is this a Trump discussion, which should be in the politics category. Please don’t hijack the thread…I’d like to read people’s views on fair trade.


Not buying things because it is not fair trade has a negative impact on people who are employed by companies who aren’t fair trade. Let’s admit that nobody likes to work to an unfair company and everybody who does so has to work there.
It is like punishing a worker because they didn’t go on strike to demand for their rights.
To have an actual impact on economy and force a company to respect the rules of fair trade you have to have a lot of money and be involved in business.
If you bankrupt a supermarket who has unfair work conditions you only manage to send its employees to an even worse state of poverty. The owner declares bankrupcy to actually save his or her wealth and financial debt. The big managers are untouchables with the embargo technique.


That is not quite true. If enough consumers and citizens make choices for good, it can influence the greedy capitalist masters do what the customers want. They will do what the customers want, not because they have had a change of heart and suddenly love people more than money, but because they get more money that way. They make more money by selling products.

I can give you one example (there are others): Trans fats got a bad reputation well before the US FDA proposed to ban them. Consumers looked at the product labels and chose products with no trans fats. Enterprising manufacturers updated their ingredients and splashed their packages with “No Trans Fat” labeling, the competitors decried this as scare tactics, and the consumers forced the market. Of course manufacturers have adopted palm oil, which is not the most healthy oil, but hey, it’s natural and not trans!

Don’t give up! You can make a difference.


To answer the OP, the social movement to promote fair trade practices is in keeping with Catholicism according to the principle of Universal Destination of Goods. The basic idea is that property, productivity, wealth, and goods exist for the benefit of people, not the other way around. Here is the passage from the Catechism:


2402 In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. However, the earth is divided up among men to assure the security of their lives, endangered by poverty and threatened by violence. The appropriation of property is legitimate for guaranteeing the freedom and dignity of persons and for helping each of them to meet his basic needs and the needs of those in his charge. It should allow for a natural solidarity to develop between men.

2403 The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property and its exercise.

2404 “In his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself.” The ownership of any property makes its holder a steward of Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others, first of all his family.

2405 Goods of production - material or immaterial - such as land, factories, practical or artistic skills, oblige their possessors to employ them in ways that will benefit the greatest number. Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guests, for the sick and the poor.

2406 Political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.


It’s a marketing scam that really doesn’t benefit the poor as promised, it mostly benefits the middlemen who can charge a significantly higher price


My opinion is in line with the social teaching of the Church .

I cannot with a clear conscience engage in any trade which is not fair .

“It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral—and not simply economic—act.”(Pope Benedict XVI)

Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical Centesimus Annus that a business should act not as a “society of capital goods” directed solely toward the attainment of financial goals, but rather as a “society of persons” that serves the common good of everyone.

“Let each one examine his conscience,…Is he prepared to support out of his own pocket works and undertakings in favour of the most destitute? … Is he ready to pay a higher price for imported goods so that the producer may be more justly rewarded?” (Pope Paul VI)

“When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.”(St Gregory the Great)

“The common good means that the fruits of the earth belong to everyone. No one should be excluded from the gifts of creation.”(Populorum Progressio of Pope Paul VI)


I read the two articles linked above. It seems that “Fair Trade” organizations manage to give the worst of both worlds—higher prices to consumers and often lower prices paid to producers, while at the same time discouraging increases in productivity so that peasants will always remain peasants with no opportunity to better themselves.


Well the articles are 4 and 6 years respectively. I would hope fair trade practices have improved since 2012, although I really have no idea.

@Psalm30 the idea of being a responsible Catholic consumer is beautiful and something to strive for. I don’t think purchases that aren’t fair trade are sinful though. God bless.


Honestly, I see it as a secular leftist paradigm which has the effect - assuming good intentions - of putting brokers in coffee, chocolate and other goods into a lower economic status by causing their unemployment. And, they were providing a legitimate service.

I am drinking some Kenyan AA coffee right now. If it was “fair trade” (Who defines fair?) that means that some Kenyan man or woman who had been a broker, has lost income or their job entirely. Robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The left generally hates all manifestations of capitalism, and this is one sneaky way in which they attack it. The guilt factor of 'fairness" is a rude ploy.


I understand there are Fair Trade-style goods, but I always thought of Fair Trade as simply protectionist trade policy with humanitarian aims. In that respect I was thought the current President’s stance (whatever he may be to you) on trade actually meshed well on contemporary (of what is thought to be) Catholic Social Teaching.


The idea of paying producers of goods a fair amount for what they produce is definitely in line with Catholic Social Justice.

However, there is a lot of corruption in bringing “fair trade” goods to market. It is sometimes the case that producers are still receiving relatively little compared to middlemen and retailers.

If you are looking to purchase fair trade goods, you have to do your due diligence to find honest brokers of fair trade goods.


Catholicism of course advocates for fair trade–or more precisely, just trade–but I don’t know enough about Fair Trade™ certifications to speak about their benefit. From my limited understanding, there are private agencies that essentially charge a fee to certify certain products or producers as “Fair Trade” if they meet certain criteria, which can vary. I guess I would need to see what the specific criteria of each are.


So the Fair Trade organization itself imposes an added middleman fee. So maybe where before, the grower might have been paid $1.65 for a pound of coffee which eventually retailed for $7.00, under Fair Trade maybe he gets $1.85 per pound while paying a Fair Traide fee, and the consumer ultimately pays $10 per pound while the producer is restricted as to his ability to expand production.

Theory is one thing but I would like to see how the numbers and results work out in practice.


Is there some standard for “fair trade” or could anything from particular countries be marked that way?


Seems like a pretty sustainable ploy. I admire the evil genius behind it. (Tongue in cheek - don’t be scandalized)


One then wonders if this whole thing is “best intentions” or rather, the best-laid plans of mice and men.

“Fair” anything is leftist code.

We have a higher standard: charity.


That explains why Fox News stopped using their old motto, Fair and Balanced. :wink:


“Charitable and balanced”? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


Haha, when did that happen?

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