What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to have access to better trading conditions and promote sustainability. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate, flowers, and gold. There are several recognised Fair Trade certifiers, including Fairtrade International (formerly called FLO/Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International), IMO and Eco-Social. Additionally, Fair Trade USA, formerly a licensing agency for the Fairtrade International label, recently broke from the system and is implementing its own fair trade labelling scheme.

Although no universally accepted definition of “Fair Trade” exists, Fair Trade labelling organisations most commonly refer to a definition developed by FINE, an informal association of four international Fair Trade networks (Fairtrade International, World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Network of European Worldshops and European Fair Trade Association (EFTA)):

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers – especially in the South.

Fair Trade organisations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.

Fair Trade Organisations

Fairtrade International is an association of producer networks and national labelling initiatives that develop Fairtrade standards, license buyers/label usage and market the Fairtrade Certification Mark in consuming countries. The Fairtrade International labelling system is the largest and most widely recognised standard setting and certification body for Fair Trade labelling. Formerly named Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, it changed its name to Fairtrade International in 2009, when its producer certification and standard setting activities were separated into two separate, but connected entities. FLO-CERT, the for-profit side, handles producer certification, inspecting and certifying producer organizations in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Fairtrade International, the non-profit side, owns the Fairtrade Certification Mark and sets the standards for certification.

In 2011-12, there were over 1.2 million farmers in 66 countries associated with Fairtrade. Shoppers spent EUR 4.9 billion on Fairtrade products and EUR 65 million was paid back to Fairtrade producers through the Fairtrade premium.

The World Fair Trade Organization (formerly the International Fair Trade Association) is a global association created in 1989 of Fair Trade producer cooperatives and associations, export marketing companies, importers, retailers, national, and regional fair trade networks and Fair Trade support organisations. In 2004 WFTO launched the FTO Mark which identifies registered Fair Trade organisations (as opposed to Fairtrade International, which labels products).

 

The Network of European Worldshops (NEWS!), created in 1994, is the umbrella network of 15 national worldshop associations in 13 different countries all over Europe.

 

The European Fair Trade Association (EFTA), created in 1990, is a network of European alternative trading organisations which import products from some 400 economically disadvantaged producer groups in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. EFTA's goal is to promote Fair Trade and to make Fair Trade importing more efficient and effective. The organisation also publishes yearly various publications on the evolution of the Fair Trade market.

 

In 1998, the first four federations listed above joined together as FINE, an informal association whose goal is to harmonize fair trade standards and guidelines, increase the quality and efficiency of fair trade monitoring systems, and advocate fair trade politically.

Additional certifiers include IMO (Fair for Life, Social and Fair Trade labels), Eco-Social and Fair Trade USA.