Celebrating 20 Years of Fairtrade International

7 July 2017   |   Kathleen McCoy, Events and Communications Assistant Manager

Fairtrade International recently turned 20! Join us in a look back on what’s been achieved so far, and look forward to building the Fairtrade of the future.

What started as a group of Mexican farmers fighting for a fairer price for their coffee, developed into a worldwide movement for change. The first Fairtrade-labelled coffee appeared in Dutch supermarkets in 1988. Other products such as bananas, tea, and chocolate soon followed. The notion that placing everyday products in your supermarket basket could help tackle poverty in developing countries caught the public’s imagination. Today, more than 40,000 Fairtrade products are sold in over 135 countries.

Fairtrade International was established in 1997 by a group of Fairtrade organizations to serve as the umbrella organization for Fairtrade worldwide. At that time these different organizations applied different standards and approaches. Fairtrade International plays a pivotal role in the global movement developing the Fairtrade Standards and bringing together farmers’ and workers’ networks, and national Fairtrade organizations (like Fairtrade America) to drive global Fairtrade strategy.

“The work of Fairtrade International and its members has been unparalleled in driving awareness of where our products originate changing the market for consumers and farmers as well,” said Rick Peyser, a former Fairtrade International Board Member and Senior Relationship Manager, Coffee and Cocoa, at Lutheran World Relief. “Buyers are demanding sustainability and organized farmers and workers are pushing for their rights.”

Farmer and Worker Priorities Drive Development

One of Fairtrade’s core principles is enabling farmers and workers to determine their own development. Farmers and workers decide how to invest their Fairtrade Premiums according to their priorities, contribute to Fairtrade Standards, and even represent the interests of their communities in the highest levels of Fairtrade governance. The involvement of producers in the Fairtrade system was taken to a new level in 2013 when producers became co-owners of the Fairtrade system.

“Producers achieving co-ownership is for me the most memorable moment,” says Marike de Peña, Chair of the Latin-American producer network, CLAC. “From then on we started having much more equal debates and decision-making.”


Rick Peyser, Former Board Member & Senior Relationship Mananger at Lutheran World Relief 

Producers put their decision-making power into action again last week, when 11 producer representatives took part in the annual General Assembly, held in Bonn, Germany, where Fairtrade International is based.

Mayaris Romero, a worker at a Fairtrade banana plantation representing Latin American workers at the Assembly, is positive about the progress so far: “The impact of Fairtrade has been substantial, for the economic situation of the workers, and for the whole company. My children are studying and many other workers’ children are now building careers, thanks to Fairtrade.”

Though we are proud of our achievements over the past 20 years, Fairtrade remains far from achieving its ambitious goal of a world where trade can be a true tool of opportunity and inclusion for all. The global landscape has also changed significantly. That’s why Fairtrade continues to adapt, evolve, and innovate.

Recent examples include:

Leading Fairtrade International into its third decade is recently appointed CEO, Dario Soto Abril, who is enthusiastic about the expanding opportunities for Fairtrade to increase its impact.

“Fairtrade has gone from strength to strength over the past two decades. Now we are redoubling our efforts so that we can build on this success and create even greater impact. I’m confident that by working together in partnership with producers, traders and civil society, we will achieve our vision of a living wage and a living income for Fairtrade farmers and workers,” says Soto Abril.

Watch a video of Fairtrade International’s members reflecting on 20 years!


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