The Common Good

Using Spending Power for Good: A Conversation With Nathan George of Trade As One

At the Justice Conference last weekend I had the opportunity to sit down with Nathan George, founder of Trade As One, and ask him about buying fair trade and his company's awesome — and newly launched — fair trade subscription service. Here is the fruit of that conversation.

Photo courtesy of Trade as One
Trade As One provides a quarterly fair trade subscription for ethical consumption. Photo courtesy of Trade as One

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The interview was edited for length and content.

What is Trade as One?

We sell a subscription of fair trade consumables that comes out once every season, so it’s four shipments a year. Nobody else is doing that.

We’ve been in existence for seven years and actually started out doing crafts.

A small percentage of your food budget every year is carved out to be fair trade, and you learn about the people and the land behind the products.

We’re focusing everything we do around that objective: getting ethically sourced, healthy, fair trade, organic food into people’s pantries.

I’ve heard a lot about fair trade. What exactly is it?

Fairness is all about treating others as we would expect to be treated. Fair trade is embodying that principle in international trade agreements, specifically targeted at including the marginalized and those typically excluded from international trade. So you’re going after the poorest of the poor and including them in trade and treating them in the same we would expect to be treated.

It’s not paying them the same as if they were living in California, but instead saying, “You need a living wage. From your dignified labor, you need to provide not just food on the table but education and health care.”

Fair trade is a certifying system that insures that a living wage is paid and that dignity is given to people who are typically at the bottom of the pyramid.

So why have you personally decided to do this kind of work?

I temporarily stepped away from the business world and spent time with people taken out of trafficking and got excited about working with the poor in a way that created jobs instead of handouts and charity. I was especially excited about seeing communities totally transformed as a result of jobs being created.

My wife and I then moved from the U.K. to the U.S. specifically to partner with the church and help the church take a lead in the fair trade movement. In the U.K., fair trade is much more a Christian response to poverty. It’s very much a grassroots, church-led movement. I was perplexed that the evangelical church in the states was not really engaged in fair trade, but it’s the biggest consumer economy in the world.

I asked myself, “What if people started to see their spending power, not their giving, as a justice issue, as a kingdom issue?”

Continuing with that idea, as a Christian, why is this issue particularly important to you?

My passion is that the church is seen to take a lead in this.

One of the biggest issues the church, particularly the church in America, faces is how blind it is to consumer culture. Consumer culture puts you at the center of your own little universe. Unlike organics, which is again a sort of looking after one’s self and giving one healthy food, fair trade is predominantly about the other. It is loving our neighbors as ourselves.

And that’s a difficult proposition to sell. Will you buy a product that comes with a premium to make sure that someone you will never meet in your life is treated in a way that you would expect to be treated? It comes down to the greatest commandment: to love the Lord our God and love our neighbors as ourselves. It’s as simple as that.

So loving our neighbors as ourselves in the fundamental things that we do every single day — purchasing and consuming food in order to survive — is a fundamental Christian duty.

Curious about what exactly comes in the ethically produced package? Fear no more! Here are this winter's contents:

  • Thai White Jasmine Rice
  • Ruby Red Jasmine Rice
  • Rainbow Quinoa
  • Tea Sampler
  • Dark Chocolate Bar with Mint
  • Cinnamon
  • Organic Sugar Pouch
  • Shea & Red Palm Body Lotion
  • Olive Oil Bar Soap
  • Pepper-Infused Olive Oil
  • Cornbread Mix
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Black Bean Soup

Check out more about fair trade and Trade As One at their website here.

Brandon Hook is the Online Assistant at Sojourners. He enjoys beautiful things, traveling, writing, music, and taking pictures, among other things.

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