Myth: Artisans and farmers rely on stores to send money back after selling their fair trade products.
Fact: Artisans are paid immediately for the products that they make or grow. In fact, they are often paid a deposit before the goods are even created. Artisans do not rely on a set retail price or sales to receive a fair wage. This means that they are paid whether or not the item sells in a retail store. This provides security and peace of mind — they will always be compensated for their time and talents, no matter what happens when the products reach the hands of consumers.
People often wonder what percentage of the price of a fair trade product “goes back” to the artisan. This is really the wrong question to ask, because the artisans do not have to rely on retail stores sending money back to them. Rather, the artisans are paid immediately in full. They receive a fair, mutually-agreed upon wage for their work. Sometimes, artisans even receive partial payment in advance if they are working on a special project or need a small loan.
This myth is related to the myth that fair trade is charity. We are asked how much money “goes back” because of the misconception that stores like ours sell products and donate a percentage of sales back to the artisans. Fair trade is not charity, however. It is a system of trade based on respect and trust where people and the planet are considered above profits. We may donate a premium back to artisans for a special program, but only be after they were already paid for the products themselves months prior.
It is important to remember that although artisans do not rely on consumers buying fair trade products to receive a wage, customers are a vital component in the cycle of empowerment. The more customers buy, the more quickly we can order more. If we don’t buy a certain item, there is a chance that it will be discontinued. However, this does not mean the artisan who made it will be without a job. Fair trade companies work with artisans to tweak a product until it is desirable to consumers, and they always collaborate on new products so they can continue their (fair) trade partnership for years to come.