We started our series last month on Living Fairly. We started by looking at what fair trade means and why it should matter to us as Christians who are living missionally.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'.
Love does no harm to its neighbor.
In the Bible, Jesus clearly states that loving our neighbors is key to serving Him. As we explore this topic of Living Fairly, I hope you will understand that shopping responsibly is key to serving Him as well, because our wallets speak loudly and companies will take notice when we stand up for those who are being taken advantage of.
This month we are going to talk about Living Fairly in the context of your bathroom. We are going to be exploring beauty products and the price we pay to look beautiful and how much it really costs in terms of the "harm" that may be done against our neighbor.
Cocoa butter and shea butter are two products that are widely used in cosmetic products. You can find them in lotions and soaps. Cocoa butter is extracted from the cocoa bean and is actually an ingredient in chocolate (which we'll talk more about when we talk about Living Fairly- In Your Kitchen). Shea butter is extracted from the bean of the shea tree.
Both of these products have very shady beginnings, though, before they ever reach the shelf of your local beauty product store or medicine cabinet. It is estimated that over 800,000 children work in the cocoa supply chain. And the average cocoa farmer makes 10% of the average poverty standard for their country. This means that if you increased his income by ten times, he would still be impoverished.
Why are children working on the cocoa plantations? Why are farmers making so little off of their crop, which forces them to employ children?
It all goes back to the price of cocoa. It's gone down in recent years and since the farmer is such a small part in the supply chain, they are paid the least. The situation is similar with shea. Shea butter is actually called "women's gold" since women does most of the harvesting in this industry but since the rest of the industry is controlled by men, women make the least. Women are paid an average of $0.60 per kilo of shea that they pick, whereas the same shea sells on the international market for 2-3 times that.
There is a movement among companies that use cocoa and shea butters to encourage farmers to become certified. If they become certified, which basically means they follow certain rules in how they raise their crops and who they employ, then they are paid more for their crop which then could possibly break the chain of poverty and also set children free from their employment. The money from the certified cocoa and shea sales then goes to education and programs for children living in the affected communities.
So, what's the point of all of this as it relates to you and me?
We, as the consumers, can make choices that demand sustainable cocoa and shea production. We can shop for products that have the Fair Trade symbol and by buying these products we are casting a vote for more sustainable production of these items. We can also just be more careful when we are shopping for beauty products by researching brands to see what their production practices are. A particular brand may not sport the Fair Trade symbol but may still be fair trade. Just look them up on the internet and read more about them.
By shopping fair trade, we are voting for a child's right to go to school, instead of working 12+ hours a day in the cocoa fields, and we are casting a vote for a farmer to earn a fair wage, enough to lift his family out of poverty. We are speaking up for our neighbor and we are living Romans 13:10 by doing no harm.
If you are interested in learning more about Living Fairly, here are some online and retail shops that sell Fair Trade Bath and Body items.
The Body Shop
Fair Trade USA- lists other ingredients such as olive oil, honey, sugar, and plant extracts which can be purchased Fair Trade
**A big thank you to Jessica from For the Love of Justice who helped me to understand more about fair trade for this article. Please visit her blog to learn more.
Kerry Todd is married to her best friend, Denny, and has one daughter, Alivea. She is passionate about missions and about orphans and she loves watching the church be the church. She and her husband have adopted one daughter and are in the process of adopting another child. She writes at my life (his mission) all about how God has wrecked her heart for the orphan and how she has found new life in the midst of infertility. You can keep up with all of her craziness on her blog, facebook, and twitter.
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