Browse your local Whole Foods and you’ll find lots of fair-trade goodies, from coffee beans and chocolate to tropical fruits and spices. The good news: this ethical trade is finally starting to take root in beauty #itsabouttime! In today’s blog, we’ll chat about:
- What is fair-trade & why does it matter?
- Fair-trade & beauty products
- Our fair-trade Ingredients + why they aren’t all fair-trade
- What fair-trade means to us
- How to find ethical beauty products
What is Fair-Trade?
Essentially, fair-trade means treating workers ethically - with fairness and respect. When an ingredient is Fair-Trade Certified, it means the supplier has been vetted by a fair-trade organization and proven to follow these standards:
- Treating employees fairly and ethically, and absolutely no child labor
- Using sustainable production practices
- Minimizing their impact on the earth and the local communities.
Why Fair-Trade Matters
The fair-trade certification was created to protect workers from exploitation. A staggering number of cosmetic ingredients are still produced under horrific working conditions, and often with the use of child labor.
You may have heard about the tragic child labor in mica mining, but mica's not the only problem ingredient. Other common ingredients like cocoa butter, shea butter, and carnauba wax have also been found to involve child labor, forced labor, and overall terrible working conditions.
Image Credit: Terre des Hommes
How Does Fair-Trade Help?
Ingredient prices are constantly fluctuating - changing demand, crop failures, and extreme weather cause massive price drops and rises. Because many small farmers have a small profit margin, if prices drop below a certain level, they make next to nothing for their labor and product.
When an ingredient is certified fair-trade however, there's a set minimum price. Regardless of changing market prices, the grower is guaranteed at least the minimum amount, and more if prices rise. This protects them from extreme price drops and allows them to profit when conditions improve. When suppliers make a profit, they can afford to pay their employees a decent wage.
In addition to this price guarantee, purchases pay an extra premium when they purchase from fair-trade suppliers. These premiums go towards development initiatives like education, reforestation projects, energy and food security, drinking water solutions, childcare, and other projects that benefit the community.
What This Means For You
When you purchase products with fair-trade ingredients, you’re directly impacting the lives of workers around the world. This is why fair-trade products sometimes cost more – they reflect the fair and ethical practices that should always be upheld. When you see an eyeshadow for $5.99, it's likely those workers were not paid a liveable wage.
Read our blog on Why Our Palettes Are $58 for more on this topic.
Fair-Trade & Beauty Ingredients
Every ĀTHR Beauty Eyeshadow Palette contains about 20 ingredients, each individually sourced from growers or suppliers. As a beauty brand, there are a few ways to choose your ingredient supplier(s):
- Cost – the least expensive version of an ingredient
- Quality – the highest-quality version of that ingredient
- Ethics – suppliers with fair-trade, ethical, sustainable practice
While it would be great to have it all (cost, quality, and ethics), you are usually picking two of the three. At ĀTHR Beauty, we’ll never compromise on quality or ethical sourcing. Price comes last once those conditions are met.
For many companies, price is the most important factor. This means that either quality or ethics are compromised. Many brands use a middleman ingredient supplier who chooses the least expensive options for them. In many cases, the brand doesn’t know where their ingredients come from or the working/environmental conditions they were produced in.
So, even when you’re choosing a natural, non-toxic, vegan product, if that brand values price over ethics, it may still be produced by underpaid, unfairly treated workers. And while it’s true, you can’t always have it all, we don’t believe that doing good should be the area that’s sacrificed.
Our Certified Fair-trade Ingredients
We source certified fair-trade ingredients whenever possible. Our two fair-trade certified ingredients are:
- Certified Organic Shea Butter
- Certified Organic Coconut Oil
Why aren’t all our ingredients Certified Fair-Trade?
There are only a few cosmetic ingredients that have been certified as fair-trade around the world. Fair-trade regulations relate to natural, grown & harvested ingredients. Since cosmetics have been mostly chemical-based for so long, fair-trade organizations haven’t had much to certify. Now that natural ingredients are becoming more prevalent in beauty products; fair-trade certifiers are slowing looking at the most widely used natural ingredients.
So far in beauty, the only ingredients available as certified fair-trade are coconut oil, shea butter, argan oil, olive oil, brazil nuts, and apricots. The rest of our unique, lesser-known ingredients (like moringa oil, rosehip oil, lavender oil, prickly pear oil, sea buckthorn oil, and crystal powders) haven’t gained enough popularity yet to warrant the certifying organizations’ attention.
Regardless, if we can’t find a fair-trade version of an ingredient, we do the research ourselves. We keep looking until we find an ethical, sustainable grower/supplier of that ingredient. If there’s isn’t an ethical option, we don't use that ingredient.
How You Can Find Ethical Beauty
First and foremost, look for fair-trade certified ingredients on product labels. Next, since fair-trade ingredients are so limited, look for companies who are focused on ethical, sustainable sourcing. Ask questions, find out where they're sourcing ingredients from, if they know/vet their suppliers. A brand that cares about ethical sourcing will be happy to answer your questions!
What ‘Fair-Trade’ Means to Us
To us, fair-trade is a far-reaching, all-encompassing definition. It means looking at the entire impact we have and ensuring the fair, ethical treatment of:
- The people who grow, harvest, and produce our ingredients. All people deserve fair wages and a safe and ethical working environment. That includes never using an ingredient produced with child labor.
- You, the wearers of our products and the reason we exist. We’ll only ever produce a beautiful, effective, non-toxic product that enhances your inherent beauty and never compromises your health.
- This planet. With every decision we make - from our 100% recyclable, zero-waste packaging, to our sustainably sourced ingredients - we honor this planet that gives us the ingredients to create more beauty with.
- All other beings. No animal or being will ever suffer for our products. ‘Fair’ means treating all beings with the respect and love they deserve. We are Certified Vegan & Cruelty-Free always.
Fair-trade also means giving back. It means showing our gratitude to this planet for the gorgeous ingredients it provides to us. That’s why we’ll always donate 1% of our sales to 1% for the Planet – an organization working to preserve, protect, and heal our planet.
Sustainable vs Fair Trade
While fair-trade focuses on ethical practices now, sustainability focuses on the future. It means making decisions that won’t compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It means looking at our impact on the planet as a whole.
We see fair-trade as a non-negotiable part of sustainability, but not the whole picture. We will only create products as long as they #donoharm to anyone – now or in the future. There must be a sustainable, ethical way to create a product, or we won’t make it.
Read more about how we create and source sustainable packaging and ingredients, and how to recycle your zero-waste palettes on our blog.
Thanks for tuning in to our blog and for supporting ethical, sustainable beauty! Leave us your comments below or stop by our Instagram to say hi <3
-ĀTHR Beauty xo