Sustainability is the term used to describe ‘the capacity to endure”. It is a word you will hear used in all sorts of contexts including sustainable living, products, development and finance. The most common use of the word sustainability is in when talking about environmentally friendly, ethical or Fair trade products. But what actually is sustainability and how does it relate to Fair trade?
Sustainability can relate to the environment, social or economic wellbeing and it can also apply on a large scale (the whole planet) or a more local scale (one person or a small community), although all are interrelated in a way.
Environmental sustainability is related to ecosystem and maintaining the balance which is required for them to survive. This includes the use of natural resources, disposal of waste, pollution and emission of greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming. Biodiversity is also an important aspect of the wellbeing of an eco-system and sustainability also involves preserving it. Environmental sustainability works on a large scale in terms of issues like the use of non-renewable resources and climate change, pollution and degradation of habitats has an effect on a more local scale but also affects the whole planet.
Financial and social sustainability usually relates to the wellbeing of individuals or communities in relation to their ability to support themselves. As economies grow and become more sustainable financially they often also consume more and produce more waste having a greater impact on the environment.
For humans to be completely sustainable they need to consider all aspects of sustainability including economic, environmental and social on a global and local scale.
Fair trade is a method of trade that ensures that producers in the developing world get a fair price for their goods. Traditionally, with conventional trade they have often received below the market rate which leads to poverty and eventual loss of livelihood for these producers. Helping to give these producers a fair price ensures that they can continue to produce in a sustainable way using artisan methods which is usually better for the environment than more intensive methods of production.
Fair trade by its very nature needs to be self-sustaining. The products that are produced need to be desirable and high quality so that people will want to buy them. They also need to be at a good price that people will be prepared to pay for them. There are a number of organisations including the Fair trade Foundation that work with producers in developing countries to ensure that they can produce products that are of a high quality.