"With income from Fair Trade sales, we have made improvements to our community. Before we slept on the ground and did not have basic amenities. Now some of us have constructed floors, we have furniture, sanitary services, and potable water. If we sold all of our production at the Fair Trade price, our dreams would come true."
~ Alexa Marin Colindres, PRODECOOP member
Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, World Fair Trade Organization, Fair Trade USA, Fair for Life, Fair Trade Federation and European Fair Trade Association) define fair trade as 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 South. Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.
In plain speak-
Fair Trade is an internationally-recognized approach to trading which aims to ensure that producers in poor countries get a fair deal. A fair deal includes a fair price for goods and services, decent working conditions, and a commitment from buyers so that there is reasonable security for the producers.
Producers: The people making or growing the products such as coffee, sugar, handicrafts, etc.
Importers: The individual and companies who buy from the producers and sell either to the retailers, or often direct to the public.
Retailers: "brick & mortar" street and online shops which sell the fair trade goods. Often the good are bought from the importers, though there can also be a direct link from producer to retailer.
Labelling Initiatives: Organizations such as the Fairtrade Labelling Organization, Fair Trade USA and Fair for Life monitor fair trade produce and offers a label to distinguish these goods from others. This has enabled fair trade goods to become more widely available in larger shops and supermarkets.
Fair Trade began modestly in the 1940s when a few small North American and European organizations reached out to poverty stricken communities to help them sell their handicrafts to well-off markets. Later, a fictional Dutch character, Max Havelaar, was developed as an advocate for exploited coffee pickers. Today, Fair Trade is a global effort. Fair Trade USA and the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) have extended their reach beyond crafts and coffee. Consumers can enliven developing countries, relieve exploitation and promote environmental sustainability by purchasing Fair Trade-labeled tea, cocoa, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, sugar, honey, wine, flowers, grains and rubber products.
EFTA (The European Fair Trade Association) was founded in 1987, gaining official status in 1990 as an association of importing companies in 9 European countries.
IFAT (The International Association for Fair Trade) began in 1989. They are a global network of hundreds of organizations aiming to “improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged people through trade, and providing a forum for the exchange of information and ideas”. IFAT launched a Fair Trade Organization Mark in January 2004. The FTO Mark is a quality mark. It means standards are being implemented regarding working conditions, wages, child labor and the environment. These standards are verified by self-assessment, mutual reviews and external verification. It demonstrates that an organization's trading activity committed to continual improvement.
In the United States, Fair Trade USA (formerly known as TransFairUSA certifies food and beverage products and organizes Fair Trade Month each October to help consumers connect with the people that produce the things you buy, and to hear what aspect of Fair Trade matters most to them. All of the food we consume was grown by someone’s hands, someone’s family. Fair Trade creates a kind of mindfulness in people’s lives about what they buy, a way for people to connect, a window into another reality. Learn More..
The first World Fair Trade Day took place on May 4, 2002. It continues to be celebrated every second Saturday of May. Learn More...
In the US, it is mostly foods that are certified, and they include: coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa , herbs ands spices, honey, sugar, vanilla, molasses, avocados, bananas and other tropical fruits, and flowers. Products that use certified ingredients also carry the certifier labels such as some beverages, body lotions, ice creams. Look for USA and European fair trade labels (above) to know that your products have been Fair Trade Certified.
Many products such as crafts, jewelry, and clothing are not yet Fair Trade Certified. The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) establishes fair trade criteria that member businesses commit to following. Terra at the Isabel Rose is a proud member.
Other products on the market that are not Fair Trade Certified or sold through Fair Trade Federation members may also be "fairly traded" thanks to retailers, who purchase directly from artisans, pay fairly, and ensure that fair trade standards are met. When you know your retailers well, you can trust this process.
Fair Trade Certified products alone positively impact the lives of the over one million Fair Trade farmers and their families, who are located in 58 countries. Fair Trade raises the standards of living for these families and offers a comprehensive development of their communities. It offers true change, and not charity.
Fairly traded products affect millions and millions of producers providing them with more resources and control over their lives. Support of Fair Trade lifts others up while respecting Mother Earth and her limits.
All of this positive change is as easy as buying s cup of Fair Trade certified tea at Terra, reaching for Fair Trade Certified coffee at your grocery store and shopping from merchants who support Fair Trade practices.
Thanks for being Fair Traders!
This "Why Fair Trade" blurb originates from our fair trade friends in Media, PA, America's first fair trade town.