How can we be sure that a product is fair trade? Conscious consumers want to buy products that are ethically sourced but how can we make the right decision? There's an app for that, well kind of. aVOID is a browser plug-in that blocks sites that have been found to carry clothing made by child laborers. It's a clever tool to help make ethical purchasing decisions and it's especially effective because aVOID does all the work. The plug in was developed by a German group called Earthlink and it uses real time auditing of websites to constantly renew the data.
If we were to take this tool one step further -- beyond the specific abuse of child labor in manufacturing-- is there an online tool to help consumers determine if a product is fair trade? As far as we know, no. It would be a wonderful thing and someday it will become a reality. Fair trade is an increasingly important issue to consumers but it's more difficult to get a comprehensive fair trade labeling system in place. It's logistically (and financially) daunting to carry out site audits of many of the small producer groups who constitute the bulk of fair trade producer groups. So in essence the data is not quite there yet. aVOID's plug-in is effective because they have a specific focus to their audits (i.e. monitoring manufacturers with child labor abuse issues). But it's a great place to start and perhaps with the right data their format could be expanded to allow consumers to make informed choices for other types of products. In the meantime, download the aVOID browser plug-in now.