I believe that faith communities are at a critical juncture at this time in recent history. Will they grasp the significance of the seismic shifts occurring in western capitalism and lead the way in aligning people’s beliefs with a vision for how God intended this world to function, or will they just ambulance chase people from the wreckage? Will they be able to lead a revolution in simpler living, more generous redistribution of global wealth and in ethical consumption and investment? Is there a way that they can show that markets can operate beyond flip flopping between the human emotions of greed and fear?
Here is how fair trade might play its part. Imagine ten years from now
- Thousands of churches and millions of individuals engaged in redirecting a small proportion of their spending away from large corporations and buying products that they need, but which are made by the poorest of the poor, the abused, the sick, the former slave.
- That for every person who attends church in America $6 per annum of revenue is derived — that would be about $600 million of purchasing that creates approximately 60,000 jobs.
- That with the fair trade premiums that flow back to the poor as a result, thousands of deep bore wells have been dug, hundreds of schools and medical clinics have been set up. Over the course of 10 years complete transformation of entire communities has taken place.
- That all this is achieved without any philanthropic donations and no additional spending over and above what already takes place
- Imagine that this movement is so effective that mainstream retailers instead of just dabbling in fair trade are now taking out primetime TV adverts positioning themselves as fair trade vendors
- Imagine 75% of the population in America know about and occasionally purchase fair trade
- That this large number of people, motivated to change their own purchasing behavior, has spoken prophetically to the marketplace. That they have modeled a way of engaging in commerce that is not solely based on rational self interest but that instead it is modeled upon the golden rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is as good a definition of fairness as you will get.
Is it crazy to dream like this? Maybe. But I have already seen it happen. Through church channels, Traidcraft in the UK derive about $6 per person that attends church in that country. Mainstream retailers advertise on TV as fair trade vendors. 76% of the public know what fair trade is. Imagine what will happen when American consumers actively engage their conscience in how they consume. Fair trade is only a part of the solution to the brokenness of a system that we see all around us. But it is an immediate, easy and effective way to engage.
I think we’re seeing the beginning. It is deeply encouraging to see the movement that Trade as One is witnessing, particularly in churches like Willow Creek in Chicago, Cornerstone in Livermore CA, Cornerstone in Simi Valley CA, and in churches across Texas in the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Founder, Trade as One