Fair Trade is a system of exchange based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the global market. It builds the capacity of socially marginalized producers to develop independence, supports safe and empowering working conditions, contributes to sustainable development in impoverished countries by paying producers a fair price and a workers living wage, ensures the rights of women and children, and cultivates environmental stewardship by placing a firm ban on agrochemicals and supporting environmentally sustainable farming methods that will protect valuable ecosystems for future generations. Fair Trade cuts out the middleman and supports direct trade with producer groups and co-ops—this empowers farmers to develop the business knowledge to compete in the global marketplace. By approaching development as a whole process, fair trade organizations form partnerships with producers and suppliers and aid in raising awareness and campaigning for changes to the rules of international trade. Fair Trade is not charity or developmental aid—it is simply a fair system of exchange that empowers people to effect positive change within their communities.
The Ten Principles of Fair Trade
Below are the principles laid out by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) that organizations must follow in order to be called fair trade. Fair Trade is based on:

Is Fair Trade linked to the Environment?

Fair Trade practices strictly prohibit the use of harmful agrochemicals in favor of environmentally sustainable methods of farming that protect farmers’ health. Most Fair Trade products are shade grown and some are organic which means the products you buy maintain biodiversity, provide shelter ofr migratory birds, and help reduce global warming. The use of pesticides is limited, erosion and waste are reduced, and farmers work to protect natural waterways, virgin forest and other ecosystems. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are prohibited. Producer groups (co-ops) often train farmers in sustainable practices and sometimes subsidize the cost of organic certification. The increased revenue that farmers receive from working with Fair Trade Organizations and earning a fair wage is often put towards organic certification. Price premiums are also offered to producers that sell certified organic crops. Although the Fair Trade label does not necessarily guarantee a product to be organic, over 60% of Fair Trade certified coffee in the U.S. is also certified organic.

1. Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers—Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for producers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system.

2. Transparency and accountability—Fair Trade involves transparent management and commercial relations to deal fairly and respectfully with trading partners.

3. Capacity building—Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence. Fair Trade relationships provide continuity, during which producers and their marketing organizations can improve their management skills and their access to new markets.

4. Promoting Fair Trade—Fair Trade Organizations raise awareness of Fair Trade and the possibility of greater justice in world trade. They provide their customers with information about the organization, the products, and in what conditions they are made. They use honest advertising and marketing techniques and aim for the highest standards in product quality and packing.

5. Payment of a fair price—A fair price in the regional or local context is one that has been agreed through dialogue and participation. It covers not only the costs of production but enables production that is socially just and environmentally sound. It provides fair pay to producers and takes into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men. Fair Traders ensure prompt payment to their partners and, whenever possible, help producers with access to pre-harvest or pre-production financing.

6. Gender Equity—Fair Trade means that women’s work is properly valued and rewarded. Women are always paid for their contribution to the production process and are empowered in their organizations.

7. Working conditions—Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment for producers. The participation of children (if any) does not adversely affect their well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play and conforms to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the law and norms in the local context.

8. Child Labor—Fair Trade Organizations respect the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms in order to ensure that the participation of children in production processes of fairly traded articles (if any) does not adversely affect their well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play. Organizations working directly with informally organized producers disclose the involvement of children in production.

9. The Environment—Fair Trade actively encourages better environmental practices and the application of responsible methods of production.

10. Trade Relations—Fair Trade Organizations trade with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers and do not maximize profit at their expense. They maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust and mutual respect that contribute to the promotion and growth of Fair Trade. An interest free pre payment of at least 50% is made if requested.

List taken from www.wfto.com

By the Numbers

  • $2.4 billion: amount consumers spent on Fair Trade certified products in 2007
  • 47% increase in sales of Fair Trade in 2007 compared to the previous year
  • 7+ million people were directly benefitted by Fair Trade sales in 2007 including farmers, workers and their families in 58 developing countries
  • 166% increase in sales in Sweden, the fastest growing market in the world
  • 72% increase in sales in the UK
  • 46% increase in sales in the US
  • $21.66: the average amount consumers in Switzerland spent on Fair Trade products in 2007, the highest per capita consumption in the world
  • 93% growth in the global fair trade cocoa sector in 2006 according to FLO, 53% growth in coffee, 41% growth in tea, and 31% growth in bananas
Fair Trade Certification

The Fair Trade Logo certifies that a product has met the rigorous standards set up by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO). TransFair USA is the only independent, non-profit, third-party certifier of products in the United States. Currently, fair trade certification is available in the U.S. for coffee, tea, herbs, cocoa, chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice, and vanilla.
Fair Trade Logo