At the most wonderful time of the year, along with celebrating the birth of Jesus, most of us are making a list of all the gifts we want to buy for our loved ones. But how can we be sure the gifts we’re purchasing haven’t come at the expense of others?

You hear whispers of shopping ethically and buying fair trade, but what does it actually mean? According to Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, fair trade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Sounds good, right?

What it means to be fair trade

Not just anyone can put a fair trade stamp on their products. For a company to use fair trade certified ingredients, it is a huge commitment and a very big deal. Why? Because for a company to commit to fair trade, they have to pay three premiums:

The market premium to make sure the workers are paid fairly. A premium into investing into the local community that sources the ingredients. A premium to a fair trade organisation who can audit the supply chain and ensure the money is being used properly and standards are met. If you see a fair trade stamp, you can know that the product is actually fair trade.

Here are five ways you can be sure your Christmas gift will bring joy to your family and friends—and the person who made it, too:

1. Clothing

Ethical Christmas 2015 Clothing photo

Clothing can make a great gift, after all it’s something we wear anduse every day. But how can we be sure the people creating the clothing are being treated well and compensated fairly? Baptist World Aid has put together a comprehensive list of how fashion brands rate when it comes to the wages and conditions of their workers. If you’re unsure of what to buy someone, have a look at each company’s scorecard before choosing who to buy from.

2. Chocolate

Ethical Christmas 2015 Chocolate photo

Who doesn’t love chocolate besides the lactose-intolerant among us? Made from cocoa, many farmers and labourers in the developing world lack the knowledge needed to ensure they are compensated for the cost of production, tools, fertilisers and more that’s needed to produce cocoa. Around 90 per cent of cocoa around the world is grown and harvested on small family farms by people whose primary income is from growing cocoa. Look for chocolate that is certified fair trade before making your purchase to know the people responsible for creating your delicious treat are being appropriately compensated.

3. Coffee

Ethical Christmas 2015 Coffee photo

For your coffee-loving friends, gifting speciality coffee beans sound like a match made in caffeine heaven. However, for many of the world’s 25 million coffee farmers—yes, there are that many—it’s a physically demanding job with very little financial return. According to Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, fairtrade standards for coffee act as a safety net against the unpredictable market. They provide security to coffee producers so they will get a price that covers their average costs of sustainable production. When you’re looking for the perfect coffee beans, make sure it has a fair trade sticker.

4. Tea

Ethical Christmas 2015 Tea photo

As much as many of us love a cup of coffee in the morning, tea is actually the most popular drink in the world after water. Although pay conditions for the estimated 50 million people involved in the tea industry are often regulated by local governments, tea work is historically considered unskilled work, so wages are typically low. Inflation and unpredictable weather patterns leave tea workers even more vulnerable. According to Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, an increasing number of tea companies and small farmer organisations are working to attain Fairtrade Certification to ensure fair treatment and decent wages. Make sure the tasty tea you buy is fair trade.

5. A Gift of Compassion

You can be sure you’re buying an ethical present when you purchase a Gift of Compassion. Each and every Gift of Compassion benefits the children in Compassion’s programs. They help give children living in poverty the practical support they need to learn, grow and look forward to a bright future. Where possible, Compassion aims to purchase our ‘gifts’ from local vendors to stimulate the local economy and create economic growth for communities. What a fantastic option!

Words by Monique Wallace

Photos by Jonathan L. Suwaratana, Vera Mensah-Bediako and Ryan Johnson

Fair trade information was written by Austin Graff previously appeared on the Compassion International blog and has been republished with full permission.

Further reading:

Compassion Stories
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