What Is Fair Trade Certified and Why Is West Elm Celebrating It All Month?

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We can't help but love a brand that not only has eye-catching furniture and home decor, but also has a mission to go above and beyond simply providing new upgrades for your home. We're happy to say that West Elm — our one-stop-shop for midcentury modern-style designs — checks off both of those boxes.

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October is Fair Trade Month, a time where businesses can highlight and raise awareness of the fair trade movement. And since West Elm is the first major home retailer to offer Fair Trade Certified products, we had the chance to chat with Jennifer Gootman, head of sustainability at Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (the parent company of West Elm), to learn more about the initiative.

What Is Fair Trade?

According to the non-profit organization Fair Trade USA, Fair Trade Certified products meet "rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards," including safe working conditions, environmental protection, sustainable livelihoods, and Community Development Funds. Through Fair Trade, the goal is to have a more ethical and sustainable supply chain for employees and the factories they work in.

West Elm has been in a longstanding partnership with both Fair Trade USA and Nest — an organization that supports artisans and makers — since 2014, promoting "ethical production both inside and outside" of factories, according to Gootman. As of 2021, the brand works with 17 Fair Trade Certified Factories in five countries, supporting nearly 16,000 workers and their communities.

How Has West Elm's Fair Trade Mission Impacted Workers?

Through Fair Trade Premiums — additional funds for workers — West Elm has made strides in supporting its factory workers, especially during the pandemic. Since 2014, the brand has doubled its goal of paying $3 million in Premiums by 2020, with a total of $7.2 million across all Williams-Sonoma, Inc. brands. "Workers invest these Premiums in community needs like commuter bicycles, hot lunches, hygiene kits, and more," Gootman says.

"This past year, these Premiums helped to support workers during [the] COVID-19 crisis in [the] form of cash payments to workers while factories were closed, provided food and PPE to workers in the height of the pandemic when both were difficult to come by, supported workers and their communities in preventing and treating illness from COVID-19, and purchased tablets for children to support remote schooling," Gootman tells Hunker.

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As for the future of West Elm's fair trade initiative, the brand has big goals planned, with a pledge to have "75% of products represent one or more of our social and environmental initiatives" by 2030.

In honor of Fair Trade Month, West Elm has created a landing page to highlight all of its Fair Trade Certified items, from stunning nightstands to dreamy curtains. Check out a few of our favorites below.

1. Midcentury Asymmetrical Wood Wall Mirror, $399

2. Spun Metal Standing Planters, $80–$165

3. Midcentury Expandable Dining Table, $899

4. Colca Wool Rug, $160–$1,470

5. Midcentury Nightstand, $349–$399

6. Silky TENCEL Sheet Set & Pillowcases (Queen), $150

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7. Midcentury Bed, $699

8. Pictograph Media Console, $1,799

9. Midcentury Bar Cart, $499

10. Lush Velvet Pillow Covers, $32.50–$64

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Pauline is Hunker’s Associate Commerce Editor. She covers all things home and shopping, whether it's the next must-have product launch or a roundup of the best home and decor sales. You can reach out to her at pauline.lacsamana@hunker.com.