Fair Trade: What is it?

October 23, 2013 in Fashion, Social Responsibility, Sustainability by alliemcc

We're about the get a little economical, so just hang with me.

Fair trade is the market-based answer to charity. Instead of perpetuating the charity cycle, which just creates dependency on handouts, fair trade principles ensure that farmers get a fair price for their harvest, based on the market, i.e. supply and demand. Trading is done directly, without a middleman, which would otherwise take a chunk out of the farmer's price. These transactions generally involve agricultural products which are sold for export.

gujarati farmer

A farmer in Gujarat, India. Photo by vasantdave


The most commonly Fair Trade certified products are coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, other produce, and flowers.

In addition to fair payment, fair trade ensures that working conditions are safe, farm workers get a living wage, and workers maintain the right to organize for collective bargaining.

All of these principles create positive impacts, like allowing working families to eat better quality food, keep their kids in school, receive healthcare, improve their housing, and save and invest for the future.

And the environment benefits, too. Fair trade agreements require that local ecosystems are protected, and farmers are encouraged and supported in transitioning to organic agriculture

Each fair trade certification organization has its own variation on these principles, so be sure to investigate what they're actually certifying, if you want to know more about a particular issue. Fairtrade International is basically the global leader on Fair Trade standards. Fair Trade USA certifies some products being imported to the US.

Here's more, from this [very negatively-biased] Wikipedia article:

Although no universally accepted definition of 'fair trade' exists, fair trade labeling organizations most commonly refer to a definition developed by FINE, an informal association of four international fair trade networks (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations InternationalWorld 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, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the [global] south.

Next time, I'll be talking about Fair Trade cotton and clothes–finally!!!

Here's a short video about Fair Trade Arabica coffee grown in Tanzania.


On the Fairtrade Coffee Trail from Fairtrade America on Vimeo.


Series NavigationFair Trade: Why I CareFair Trade: How to wear it