What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is a market based economic system through which workers, artisans and farmers are paid a living wage for their work and environmentally sustainable practices are used.

Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.

Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers lack economic opportunity and often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.

Fair trade is much more than just trade. At the core of the fair trade model is a direct, cooperative, and in-depth relationship between buyers and sellers that keeps all of the principles of fair trade at the forefront.

What Does that Really Mean?

Fair Trade is about making a tremendous impact on artisan and farmer communities while offering great products to the public.

Fairly traded clothing, coffee, food, furniture, home decor, housewares, jewelry, tea, toys, personal accessories, and many other products are available from Fair Trade Organizations. Communities are improved; nutritional needs met; health care costs are covered; the poor, especially women, are empowered; the environmental impact of production, sourcing, and transport is mitigated to the fullest extent possible. Such an impact is created because Fair Trade approaches development as a holistic process.

Below are various certifications for commodities, with the Fair Trade Federation servicing as a membership organization.

Fair Trade International USA(also known as FLO) maintains an international register of Fair Trade Certified cooperatives and plantations that have met its standards.  FLO also licenses U.S. companies to sell the coffee, chocolate, tea, sugar etc. FLO certifies transactions, not companies. More about the standards and structure of FLO can be found athttp://www.fairtrade.net/standards.html
Fair For Life (IMO)The Swiss based Institute for Marketecology (IMO) manages “Fair for Life”, a neutral, third party certification program for Social Accountability and Fair Trade to complement existing Fair Trade certification systems and cover many agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations that may be excluded from independent verification and Fair Trade certification. It certifies all critical steps in the value chain.   Learn more athttp://fairforlife.net
Fair Trade USA   Certifying Agency: Scientific Certification Systems*The Fair Trade Certified label is regulated by Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair USA).* Similarly, products that have Fair Trade certified ingredients which are significant to the formulation of the product (ex. ice cream) can bear a label denoting Fair Trade certified ingredients.*FTUSA certifies transactions, not companies.  More at fairtradeusa.org

Fair Trade Federation:

The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to Fair Trade.   More at www.fairtradefederation.org

Fair Trade Federation Principles are adapted from the standards of the World Fair Trade Organization to focus on businesses operating in North America. They provide an overarching framework for members and other fair traders.

Fair Trade Federation members fully commit to the following principles in all of their transactions.

Create Opportunities for Economically and Socially Marginalized Producers

Fair Trade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Members create social and economic opportunities through trading partnerships with marginalized producers. Members place the interests of producers and their communities as the primary concern of their enterprise.

Develop Transparent and Accountable Relationships

Fair Trade involves relationships that are open, fair, consistent, and respectful. Members show consideration for both customers and producers by sharing information about the entire trading chain through honest and proactive communication. They create mechanisms to help customers and producers feel actively involved in the trading chain. If problems arise, members work cooperatively with fair trade partners and other organizations to implement solutions.

Build Capacity

Fair Trade is a means to develop producers’ independence. Members maintain long-term relationships based on solidarity, trust, and mutual respect, so that producers can improve their skills and their access to markets. Members help producers to build capacity through proactive communication, financial and technical assistance, market information, and dialogue. They seek to share lessons learned, to spread best practices, and to strengthen the connections between communities, including among producer groups.

Promote Fair Trade

Fair Trade encourages an understanding by all participants of their role in world trade. Members actively raise awareness about Fair Trade and the possibility of greater justice in the global economic system. They encourage customers and producers to ask questions about conventional and alternative supply chains and to make informed choices. Members demonstrate that trade can be a positive force for improving living standards, health, education, the distribution of power, and the environment in the communities with which they work.

Pay Promptly and Fairly

Fair Trade empowers producers to set prices within the framework of the true costs of labor, time, materials, sustainable growth, and related factors. Members take steps to ensure that producers have the capacity to manage this process. Members comply with or exceed international, national, local, and, where applicable, Fair Trade Minimum standards for their employees and producers. Members seek to ensure that income is distributed equitably at all times, particularly equal pay for equal work by women and men. Members ensure prompt payment to all of their partners. Producers are offered access to interest-free advance payment for handmade goods, or pre-finance of agricultural harvest with favorable terms.

Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions

Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor. Throughout the trading chain, Members cultivate workplaces that empower people to participate in the decisions that affect them. Members seek to eliminate discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status. Members support workplaces free from physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.

Ensure the Rights of Children

Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education, and play. Throughout the trading chain, Members respect and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms. Members disclose the involvement of children in production. Members do not support child trafficking and exploitative child labor.

Cultivate Environmental Stewardship

Fair Trade seeks to offer current generations the ability to meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Members actively consider the implications of their decisions on the environment and promote the responsible stewardship of resources. Members reduce, reuse, reclaim, and recycle materials wherever possible. They encourage environmentally sustainable practices throughout the entire trading chain.

Respect Cultural Identity

Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive and equitable change. Members respect the development of products, practices, and organizational models based on indigenous traditions and techniques to sustain cultures and revitalize traditions. Members balance market needs with producers’ cultural heritage.