The United States is the largest importer of cut flowers, importing nearly 70% of the total supply. The main countries supplying the US are Colombia and Ecuador, with nearly 88% of imports between the two.
Although the flowers that these farms produce are beautiful, the conditions in which they are cultivated are not always as rosy. Workers in the Global South can be subjected to employment issues such as harassment, unsafe work environments, and not having a formal contract in place which can lead to 16-hour workdays and receive poverty level wages. These working conditions are as unsafe as they are unfair, and that’s why Fairtrade works with flower organizations to establish workers’ rights, fair compensation practices, safe environmental practices, and other environmental and social standards that benefit our many stakeholders.
In April, a few members of the Fairtrade America team joined FloraLife, a certified trading partner, to discuss some of the challenges in the floral industry and how businesses can be a part of creating meaningful change. Last year FloraLife committed to selling a Fairtrade certified post-harvest product to ensure flowers stay happy and healthy through the supply chain and in the consumers homes.
We are committed to the principles represented by Fairtrade certification. While this initiative is part of our 2025 Sustainability Plan, we’ve also found that more consumers are demanding Fairtrade products and the transparency that goes along with them.
Jim Daly, Vice President, FloraLife/Oasis Grower Solutions Global Operations and Corporate Research
There are many reasons why sourcing Fairtrade flowers can help consumers, retailers and producers thrive. By choosing Fairtrade flowers, you’re choosing the planet and the people who brighten your day with a bouquet. Learn more about why you should engage with Fairtrade flowers and just some of the impact that you can make by choosing Fairtrade!
Fair trade is good for the flower business
Manage your brand’s reputational risk.
Basic rights that are common in the US are not guaranteed in all flower producing countries. This presents a significant reputational risk for your brand. In Ethiopia for example, there is no legal minimum wage, in Uganda the minimum wage set by the government is half of the poverty line set by the World Bank.
On Fairtrade certified farms, workers earn 30% more in Tanzania, in Uganda it is up to 120% more. We know this is not enough. That’s why Fairtrade is aiming for a living wage for all flower workers.
Support thousands of jobs and fair working conditions
By getting Fairtrade certified, you are securing basic social rights for the nearly 70,000 workers on Fairtrade certified flower farms. Producer organizations follow the Fairtrade Standards that ensure the liberty to join a union, protection of health and working security, as well as the prohibition of highly hazardous pesticides.
Invest in flower-growing communities
Through Fairtrade’s unique pricing model, flower growing communities receive the Fairtrade Premium (an extra payment on top of the price) that they can use in a way that best fits their community. From improving infrastructure to building schools and medical centers to trainings on human rights to cash payments for workers, producer groups democratically use these funds to invest in their own business and communities.
Flower producers earned €7.99m in Fairtrade Premium in 2019.
Stand up for women
Women have been part of farming since it began, but continue to face discrimination and exclusion from leadership and ownership opportunities. Fairtrade focuses on rebalancing power structures so that women get equitable opportunities and resources, and have a greater voice in the decision-making on flower farms. Fairtrade Standards also prohibit discrimination, harassment and exploitation.
Gladys Benitez, 39, from Mulalo, checks a recently packed bouquet of Fairtrade certified roses. Gladys, mother of a 14-year old boy, has been working at Agrocoex in Ecuador since 1993, is a line manager at the pack house and president of the workers committee. She shared, "I have been here since the beginning, and have seen the company grow and improve. We are happy and very proud to belong to Fairtrade. By buying Fairtrade certified flowers you not only improve the lives of working families, but the community in general."
Support of environmentally friendly cultivation
25% of the Fairtrade Standards are focused on the environment. From eco-friendly cultivation to sustainable water management to a step-wise reduction in the use of chemicals, Fairtrade stands up for both people and the planet.
The carbon footprint of Fairtrade roses are 5.5 times less intensive than the “local” production in the Netherlands, including air transport. This is because of the very favorable climate in East Africa which allows flower growing all year round instead of long heating periods in Europe.
Take the next step
We’re in this together
Fairtrade America partners with brands on the journey to certification and beyond. We can help with everything from finding a certified supply chain to marketing your newly certified product.Get in Touch