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What is Fairtrade?
Fairtrade is an independent, third party certification organization, which works in partnership with more than 1.5 million producers in developing countries. Our mission is to secure decent working conditions, fair prices, and better terms of trade. In this way, producers are empowered to improve their social, environmental and economic sustainability.
Fairtrade requires that companies pay fair prices. We also work hard to level out the inequalities of global trade as we know it, which traditionally discriminates against the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
Through Fairtrade, farmers and workers take control and build sustainable futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.
What is fair trade?
The difference between “Fairtrade” and “fair trade” is that “Fairtrade” refers only to Fairtrade organizations (such as Fairtrade America) or products certified through the Fairtrade International system. Conversely, “fair trade” can refer to many different things – the fair trade movement, fair trade products generally, products that claim to be fairly traded but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark.
What is the FAIRTRADE Mark?
The FAIRTRADE Mark is the most recognized ethical label globally. When you see the FAIRTRADE Mark on a product, you know that it has been certified under Fairtrade’s internationally recognized standards to offer a better deal for farmers and workers. The Mark does not endorse a company’s entire business, but rather that Fairtrade ingredients in a particular product have met the agreed standards.
What is the Fairtrade Minimum Price?
The Fairtrade Minimum Price is the price floor set by Fairtrade International for a commodity covered under the Fairtrade Standards. It is the lowest possible price a buyer can pay a producer for a Fairtrade product to allow the producer to remain sustainable. When the market price is higher, a trader must pay the market price. The Minimum Price is set through consultations with Fairtrade farmers, workers, and traders, and represents a sustainable price, aimed to cover the costs of production.
What is the Fairtrade Premium?
The Fairtrade Premium is an additional fund paid to producers on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price, to be invested in social, environmental and/or economic development projects for their communities and businesses. Funds are allocated to and invested in projects democratically elected by producer groups.
What difference does Fairtrade make to farmers and workers?
Check out our Producer Stories and learn about Fairtrade producer groups and individual case studies to see the real change Fairtrade has delivered for farmers and workers in developing countries.
What kinds of products are Fairtrade certifiable?
There are currently 300+ kinds of products that are Fairtrade certifiable. Certifiable food products range from coffee and cocoa to herbs, spices, and even wine; non-food products include cotton, beauty products, and even precious metals like gold and platinum.
- Fresh fruit & fresh vegetables like bananas and avocados, as well as dried fruits and juices
- Sugar & sweeteners like honey and agave syrup
- Nuts/Oil Seeds/Oil
- Beauty products and cosmetics
- Sports balls
- Flowers and ornamental plants
- Precious metals (Silver, Platinum, and Gold)
Where can I buy Fairtrade products?
Everywhere! Fairtrade products are in almost every major grocery store as well as cafes, convenience stores, cafeterias and more.
My local store doesn’t offer Fairtrade products, what can I do?
Ask them! Letting a shop know you want more Fairtrade products is the best way to make sure they get stocked. Contact Fairtrade Campaigns for “product request cards” that are a more formal way of requesting ethical products.
When your shop starts stocking Fairtrade products, pass on the word and get others to support them in turn!
How much of the price I pay for Fairtrade products goes to the farmers and workers?
The FAIRTRADE Mark on a product means that farmers and workers have been paid at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price (and often more) and received Premium funds for investment in their communities or businesses. When you find Fairtrade products on a store shelf, all requirements have already been meant – this means they are not reliant on the retail price or sales of finished products to receive a fairer deal for their goods.
Check out our Impact section for more.
Why do some products claim they are “fairly traded” but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark?
Some organizations have been trading fairly for many years, before the creation of Fairtrade. The creation of new Fairtrade Standards is a long and considered process, and many of these organizations sell products that do not fall under them (like handicrafts), instead following the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) 10 principles of fair trade.
Some companies create ‘fair trade’ claims without the independent, third party foundation that Fairtrade has, or without being a member of a network such as WFTO. Consumers should question these claims. Look for the FAIRTRADE Mark as a trustworthy way to know that farmers and workers are actually receiving a better deal and fairer trading conditions.
Why aren’t handicrafts Fairtrade certified?
Fairtrade was created to cover commodities, such as cocoa, coffee and cotton. These type of products represent a large percentage of international trade and have traditionally not ensured that the producer gets a fair deal.
Fairtrade Standards are revised continually in order to stay on top of changing market factors. Sign up to our newsletter to be informed of any changes regarding handicrafts.
How do I get my product certified or source a Fairtrade certified product?
Take a look at the Business section on our website. Our Business Development Team will help you through the process of certifying your products.
Why doesn’t Fairtrade certify coffee plantations?
Of the world’s coffee farmers, 70% are small-scale farm owners, who must deal with specific challenges in the international market. Fairtrade’s mission is to make trade fairer for these disadvantaged farmers and workers, and as such, the system decided as a whole to support sustainable purchase from these small-holder farmers. This is one way we’re different from other organizations who promote fair trade goods – we don’t compromise or lose focus on our core mission of helping these small-scale farmers.
Are Fairtrade products fully traceable?
For most Fairtrade products that make up 100% of the final retail product—such as coffee, spices, rice, flowers, bananas—the Fairtrade Standards call for these products to be fully traceable. Therefore, these products can be tracked at each level of the supply chain, from the farm to the store. For some other products however, this proved to be near impossible in terms of how they are processed and manufactured.
Take chocolate for example. Cocoa beans are delivered by farmers in bulk, mixed during shipping, and mixed again during manufacture. Chocolate companies cannot always keep the Fairtrade cocoa beans separate from the uncertified beans.
As opposed to restricting this entire industry from using Fairtrade cocoa—therefore disadvantaging the thousands of small farmers who would have been able to sell on Fairtrade terms—we have set up a system under ‘mass balance’ so that manufacturers can purchase exact amounts of the Fairtrade commodities needed to create their final product and bear the FAIRTRADE Mark on their packaging.
For example, for a chocolate block that uses 300 pounds of cocoa, a manufacturer must buy 300 pounds of cocoa on Fairtrade terms and pay the additional Fairtrade Premium for community development. So, even though the cocoa beans may later be mixed with cocoa bought on the conventional market, the cocoa farmers are still benefiting.
Our strict evaluation and auditing system makes sure that the amount of Fairtrade products manufactured is correct for the amount of Fairtrade commodities that have been traded.
What does Fairtrade do about genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?
Consumers are worried about genetically modified (GM) crops, and the hazards they bring. Fairtrade does not allow GM crops, and supports farmers to monitor their neighboring fields. Contamination, however, is still possible, and it is for this reason that we do not label our products as 100% Non-GMO.
Why doesn’t the FAIRTRADE Mark apply to American Farmers?
Fairtrade was created especially to support the world’s most disadvantaged farmers and workers, using trade as a way to encourage and build sustainable development in developing countries.
We also recognize that some farmers and farm workers in America are also struggling to make ends meet and achieve high social and environmental standards. This being said, there are some major differences between production in our country and that in developing countries.
Most farmers in developing countries do not have infrastructure support, systems or safety nets in place to assist them if they cannot get a sustainable price for their goods. Fairtrade’s expertise lie in developing standards to enable these farmers and workers to work their way out of poverty through fairer trade. If we shifted our focus to also include developed nations like the USA, it would reduce the benefits we are currently able to provide our producers—the very producers Fairtrade was created to support.