The Fairtrade label is one of the most recognizable certifications in the world, with its commitment to improving the lives of nearly two million farmers and workers. October is Fair Trade Month, and we are calling on businesses to learn more about this popular certification and understand how it can fit with your brand’s sourcing model.

What is fair trade?

Fair trade is a global movement that advocates for farmers and workers to have a livable income, safe working conditions and the conditions they need to thrive, such as access to training and education, environmental protection, collective bargaining, and supporting the rights of women and children. According to The World Bank, many farmers in the Global South,  which includes Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia and Asia Pacific, live on less than $2 per day. To redress this, Fairtrade International (and its US branch – Fairtrade America) sets economic, social, and environmental standards to ensure these farmers are getting a fair deal for the products they grow, take care of the environment, and build community resources. By getting Fairtrade certified, you’re prioritizing the people and places behind your products and joining a network of ethically-minded brands. 

Fairtrade is often thought of as a certification first and foremost, which is true. But what you might not know is that Fairtrade also runs projects on the ground to better the lives of farmers and their communities. Fairtrade makes farming communities more sustainable, advocates to governments about issues like living income, child labor, and workers’ rights, and conducts cutting-edge research to inform businesses, non-profits, governmental bodies, and shoppers on ways to build a more equitable world. For more than 30 years, the Fairtrade movement has been working in different ways to seek change through trade.

An example of this extended work is our Women’s Schools of Leadership in places like Cote D’Ivoire. Women like Rosine, a cocoa farmer, have benefited from Fairtrade’s certification program as well as this project supporting gender equality. “I’ve seen that Fairtrade has helped us a lot in cocoa farming,” she says, describing how she’s investing in building a house with the help from the Fairtrade Premium. “We want each one of us women to see our freedom to have our own homes…and then sleep soundly inside them with our husbands and children.”

Hear from Rosine directly by watching this video.

How are consumers and retailers getting involved?

Consumers want to do what’s right. With more people cooking at home, consumers are in the grocery store or shopping online for more of their food and paying more attention to labels and ingredients. Shoppers also have increasingly been choosing more sustainable products when shopping – organic, zero-waste, Fairtrade, carbon-neutral, non-GMO, and more. A 2018 Nielsen study, for example, found that fair trade coffee and chocolate sold five times as fast as conventional products. The Fairtrade certification covers farmers’ economic, social, and environmental well–being, which addresses the issue areas shoppers generally care about most.

Retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and Costco offer certified products – and find value in doing so. Many retailers have also included fair trade certifications in their private label brands to differentiate and serve as a shortcut to trust for shoppers. These retail buyers are leveraging online product discovery platforms like RangeMe to search for brands and products that are Fairtrade certified. Additionally, retailers like Amazon know that shoppers are searching for Fairtrade products, and they’ve added filters to their online store to make the search easier. Many Fairtrade certified products sell for a premium over their conventional counterparts, so it’s a win-win all around.

How can I become Fairtrade Certified?

More than 35,000 products globally carry the Fairtrade Mark. Fairtrade is a product certification, and your brand can choose to certify one product or an entire line. The first step is getting in touch with the Fairtrade America team and analyzing your current supply chain. The most popular products to certify are coffee, cocoa, tropical fruit and vegetables, and cane sugar. See if your ingredients are covered by a Fairtrade standard here.

When reviewing your supply chain, we check if parts of it already are, or could easily be, purchased from a certified source. You can do a quick check yourself using this tool. For example, many brands that contain chocolate source from large companies like Barry Callebaut. A quick switch means you can purchase Barry Callebaut’s certified Fairtrade chocolate instead of conventional without changing your supplier. If you have a direct relationship with a specific farm – common for coffee brands – you may want that farm to become Fairtrade certified. Fairtrade America’s network has staff on the ground in different regions to work with farms to make sure that process goes smoothly. 

The goal for certification is that each link in your supply chain is Fairtrade certified and audited end to end for transparency and accuracy. We’ll guide you through each step of the process and work with you on the other side to promote your newly certified products.

From there, your brand can incorporate Fairtrade in your messaging to shoppers. Tony’s Chocolonely is a great example of a company taking on the cause of supporting their farmers. They recently released a manifesto video featuring actor Idris Elba, calling on a slave-free future for chocolate. Every bar of their chocolate is Fairtrade certified. 

Tony’s Chocolonely, a Fairtrade certified brand.

About the Author

Fairtrade America

Fairtrade America betters the lives of farmers and workers in developing countries by inspiring businesses to implement ethical production practices and assisting shoppers in making informed purchasing decisions. Fairtrade America is the US chapter of Fairtrade International, the original and global leader in fair trade certification with over 30 years of experience working to make trade fair, with headquarters in more than 30 countries across the globe. A non-profit 501(c)3 organization, Fairtrade America is the world’s largest and most recognized fair trade system—part of a global movement for change. Learn more at www.fairtradeamerica.org.

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