Fairtrade, And What The Label Actually Represents.


You’ve probably seen the widely known FairTrade label around the supermarket, on your favourite chocolate bars and on stunning craft works, but have you ever stopped to think, beyond the obvious, what it actually represents?

FairTrade is one of the most trusted and recognized sustainability labels in the world - and for very good reason. FairTrade was founded on the central goal of ‘ending poverty in all its forms everywhere’, and is on the baseline a foundation built to increase and maintain sustainability in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world. They are an alliance between small farmers and producers globally, creating stability in developing communities and providing fair, safe and decent working conditions.

But hang on - what's the difference between Fair Trade and Fairtrade?

Fair Trade covers the general market of fair trading and the organizations that are working to provide an alternative way of doing business. 

FairTrade is the certification and labelling system, an organisation that provides credible, internationally agreed FairTrade standards, and the marker gracing our favourites foods and goods.


FairTrade adheres to three standard pillars: Economic, Environmental, and Social.

  1. The economic criteria covers minimum prices to support long term planning and business sustainability, premium payments which allow farmers and producers to invest back into their communities and businesses, and also pre-financing to stabilize operations and create access to capital.
  2. The environmental criteria touches on biodiversity and soil preservation, minimizing pesticides and agrochemicals, and responsible waster and water management. Organic production is promoted, and the use of hazardous chemicals and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are restricted or prohibited.
  3. The social criteria covers everything you would expect; gender equality, no forced or child labour, non discrimination, equal and fair pay (equal to or higher than the minimum regional wages) freedom of association, workers health and safety, and democratic self organization.

These three pillars create the foundation for an extremely sustainable system, touching on all aspects that support an individual, their families and wider communities.


So how does it actually work? The Fairtrade system is made up of multiple different parts to ensure a wide network of interconnected communities, all working to provide worker safety and sustainability. These different parts are:

  • Three regional producer networks that represent farmers and workers in Africa and the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Over 25 national Fairtrade organizations and marketing organizations that market and promote Fairtrade products in consumer countries
  • Fairtrade International, the umbrella NGO that creates the internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards and coordinates Fairtrade worldwide
  • FLOCERT, the main independent certifier for Fairtrade, which inspects producers and traders to ensure they comply with Fairtrade Standards

These systems all work together to create ‘one of the largest and most diverse global movements for change’. 

The Fairtrade system ensures fairer trading conditions, and connects people to markets and products that they might not have had access to. It creates stability, community development and connection, jobs and sustainability. 


Fairtrade workers co-own 50% of Fairtrade, and with over 1.8 million farmers and producers worldwide, this gives them a strong voice in how they invest their Premiums, how Fairtrade is run, and other global decisions. 

When you buy products marked with the Fairtrade label you can rest assured knowing that the people behind your products are supported by fair pay and working conditions, protected by transparent and internationally recognised standards (that are independently audited), and financially supported through Premium payments that support community growth and development. 

“Fairtrade changes lives by changing trade. We transfer wealth back to farmers and workers in developing countries who deserve a decent income and decent work”. The Key Benefits to Fairtrade (https://www.fairtrade.net/about/key-benefits-of-fairtrade). 

There are over 30,000 products with the Fairtrade marker worldwide, which means you are likely to spot one in some of your daily consumptions. Coffee is one of Fairtrades most well known products, and Fairtrade coffee farmers come together in democratically organised cooperatives to share workloads, learn from each other, and decide together how to invest their Fairtrade premiums. These premiums cover community developments like healthcare, education or agricultural improvements.

Another well known Fairtrade product is cocoa, used in our beloved chocolate bars. Other products include bananas, carbon credits, cotton, flowers and plants, fruit and juices, gold and precious metals, herbs and spices, honey, nuts and oils, quinoa, rice, sports balls, sugar, tea, textiles, vegetables, wine and wine grapes. (See full product classification system here).

So, next time you’re at the supermarket, or getting your morning coffee fix, keep an eye out for the Fairtrade label and know that with your purchase, the difference you are making affects entire communities, giving farmers and workers from all around the world more control over their lives and futures. 

“Behind products on the supermarket shelves and in stores are people: farmers, workers – families. Millions of them suffer from extreme poverty, poor working conditions and inequality. Fairtrade changes this. Support Fairtrade, change lives.” Fairtrade.


Sources and further reading:

Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand


The History of Fairtrade

Fairtrade Product Classification

Fair Trade: A Just World Starts with You | Benjamin Conard | TEDxSUNYGeneseo


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