Let’s Learn About Fair Trade

Let’s Learn About Fair Trade

A man with his harvest basket

Now, more than ever, consumers care about the ethics behind the products they buy. And with 86% of millennials looking for responsibly-sourced products, it’s a good time to explore Fair Trade.1 You’ve probably seen the Fair Trade Certification label on chocolates, coffee, and fresh produce. Since October is National Fair Trade Month, it’s a good time to learn about Fair Trade practices to celebrate its impact on people and the environment.

What Is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a global movement advocating that manufacturers and producers promote fair prices, sustainable development, better wages, and a sustainable livelihood for workers and farmers in developing countries – particularly in Africa, Latin America, and other parts of the Global South.2

The movement started around the 1950s when Europeans and Americans traveling to different countries observed local farmers and artisans struggling to survive and cover the costs of their businesses. Many travelers would buy these local products to sell in their home country for a higher price. They would then send the profits back to the farmers and artisans, which resulted in better working conditions and wages.

However, there was no way to know if the profits were being sent back to the farmers and artisans or if it was being kept in the hands of the travelers. To address this, in the late 90s, organizations were founded to develop processes and offer certifications for Fair Trade goods. Their vetting seals provided confidence that money would end up in the hands of the right people.

Fair Trade Organizations To Support

Today, there are a multitude of organizations that manage the production of Free Trade goods on the consumer market. The qualities that separate Fair Trade organizations are their legal statuses, organizational structures, histories, values, priorities, and market shares.

Here are some of the major Fair Trade organizations and their respective labels to know about:

Fair Trade InternationalFairtrade International

Fairtrade International is one of the oldest and largest Fair Trade organizations in the world. In 2004, it split into 2 entities: Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) and FLOCERT, a certification body that helps companies implement and follow their Fairtrade Standards.

The organization has many member countries involved with labeling initiatives, spanning across many countries in every continent on Earth, except for Antarctica. Fairtrade International is recognized by ISEAL Alliance, which is a global association that sets sustainability standards and is also a part of the Fairtrade System.

Fairtrade International manages a wide range of products; everything from bananas and chocolate to gold and wine. In the United States, its chocolate-related work has been very impactful. Ben and Jerry’s, for example, work with Fairtrade International to source and certify the majority of its core ingredients.3

Fair Trade USAFair Trade USA

After more than a decade of working with fair trade farmers, Paul Rice launched Fair Trade USA in 1998. The organization was an affiliate of Fairtrade International but left the federation in 2012, leading to the establishment of Fair Trade USA.

Fair Trade USA’s leaders believed abandoning the cooperative structure was necessary to scale business and ultimately help farmers. The change was criticized by many but allowed Fair Trade USA to collaborate with larger farm owners and plantations.

Today, Fair Trade USA has its certification Standards and a trademarked “Fair Trade Certified” mark, which is now the most common Fair Trade label in America. While Fair Trade USA doesn’t cover as many categories as Fairtrade International, it does have a focus on the clothing market; something which most Fair Trade organizations do not focus on. Fair Trade USA’s brand partners include some large apparel companies such as Patagonia and REI.

World Fair Trade Organization World Fair Trade Organization

Founded in 1989, the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) describes itself as a global community of “Fair Trade Enterprises.” In collaboration with Fairtrade International, WFTO created the International Fair Trade Charter in 2018. Roughly 74% of the workers, artisans and farmers associated with WFTO are women, and the majority of its members are female.4

For companies to feature the WFTO label on their products, they must pass a “Guarantee System” that includes Fair Trade Accountability Watch (FTAW). The certified labels are “Guaranteed Fair Trade” and “Guaranteed Fair Trade Origin.” These labels are more common outside of the United States, with the organization being based in the Netherlands.

Getting Fair Trade Certified

While you can get certified for products through many different Fair Trade organizations, Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade Certified” is the most commonly seen label in the United States, and more than 35,000 products carry the “Fair Trade Certified” label worldwide. This label, which could take 6 to 9 months to acquire, shows that each product meets Fair Trade USA’s rigorous environmental, economic, and social standards, along with being audited by FLOCERT, an accredited third-party auditor.

There are 4 stages to the Fair Trade Certification process:

  1. Contact the Fair Trade Team: Fair Trade will work with you to better understand your business and your specific supply chain needs to help you create a game plan for getting certified.
  2. Submit Your Application: Your application will be submitted to FLOCERT, who will then review your information to determine if your supply chain meets Fair Trade Standards. At this stage, you’ll get a “Permission to Trade” so that you can use Fair Trade Certified goods.
  3. Label Your Products: This is when you can begin to add the Fair Trade mark to your packaging. You’ll receive a licensing contract and work with the Fair Trade team to register and launch your newly certified products.
  4. You’re Now A Fair Trade Partner: You are a part of the global community of brands that are changing the way trade works. You’ll have access to the Fair Trade marketing team, which will support you in celebrating your enhanced impact and commitment to ethical and sustainable sourcing.

You can explore all of Fair Trade USA’s brands here.

Why Fair Trade?

You may be asking yourself why you should buy Fair Trade products. What is the actual difference the mark has on the world and the people living in it? Evidence through many impact assessments has found that purchasing products with a Fair Trade mark can make a significant positive impact on farmers, workers, and communities.

Fair Trade USA promises to:

Fight Poverty

A decent standard of living is defined as one that covers basic needs and supports an existence worthy of human life. It’s a human right. Yet, many farmers and workers around the world live on less than $2 a day and depend on a single source of income from a cash crop to support their families. Additionally, farmers commonly only receive one check a year, which is during harvest season. This leaves little room for unexpected expenses like mitigating the effects of climate change.

Fair Trade USA breaks down the systems that trap farmers in cycles of poverty by changing the financial game. The foundation of the Fair Trade system has a unique 2-part pricing model:

  1. The Fair Trade Minimum Price is a floor price that Fair Trade USA sets (and consistently updates) that aims to cover the costs of sustainable production. It’s established through an intensive consultation process with workers, farmers, traders, and businesses.
  2. The Fair Trade Premium is an additional lump sum that Producer Organizations receive. Members democratically decide how to spend the money. The key to this process is being aware that local communities know what they need, so neither Fair Trade USA nor the companies they sell to can instruct the communities on how to spend their Premium.

Promote Workers’ Rights

People who work on large farms or in factories throughout the Global South often face incredible adversity. Most of these workers lack formal contracts, freedom of association, and basic health and safety precautions. This is compounded by earning low wages and being vulnerable to other abuses such as human trafficking and debt bondage.

Fair Trade USA is committed to fighting the root causes of labor abuses and exploitation. If forced labor is found or suspected in Fair Trade supply chains, it will immediately be addressed.

Fair Trade USA actively works to prevent forced labor through:

  • Local and international prevention policies
  • Monitoring and building knowledge of trafficking patterns
  • Training workers, farmers, and managers on human rights
  • Collaborating with governments, NGOs, and human rights organizations to continuously improve its approach

Combat Child Labor

Child labor prevents children from being children; they aren’t able to go to school, play with their friends, or get the nutrition and care they need. Unfortunately, the reality is that many of these children spend their childhood in dangerous or harmful conditions like hazardous environments, forced labor, or slavery and trafficking. With 160 million children involved in child labor globally, the issue is dire.

Fair Trade USA takes a youth-centered approach to end child labor. It collaborates with many different groups (workers, farmers, producer organizations, local governments, etc.) to fight against child labor.

Fair Trade USA’s Standards state that:

  • Children below the age of 15 are not to be employed by Fair Trade organizations.
  • Children below the age of 18 cannot undertake work that jeopardizes their education or development.
  • Children are only allowed to help on family farms under strict conditions.
  • In regions with a high likelihood of child labor, small producer organizations are encouraged to include a mitigation and elimination plan.

Promote Gender Equality

Around the world, women aren’t treated equally. 60-80% of food is grown by women but rarely do they see much, if any, of the profits. Women in the agriculture communities that Fair Trade USA is involved with:

  • Don’t have control of the money they earn
  • Don’t own land or crops
  • Are discriminated against when applying for credit
  • Don’t have access to training, supplies, or education

Fair Trade USA’s gender strategy supports farming organizations in tackling the unequal power relationships that hold women back in society and the workplace. It focuses on increasing women and girls’ human, social, financial, and physical capital to rebalance the power structure between people of different genders.

Help Beat Climate Change

Farmers and rural communities in the Global South have contributed the least to climate change, and yet, they’re often affected the most. They’re experiencing decreasing crop fields, soil erosion, pests, diseases, and changing weather patterns. This directly affects farmers and their communities in the form of:

  • Food insecurity
  • Income loss
  • The need to change their business models
  • Increased costs for adaptation and migration

Climate studies predict that by 2050 tea, coffee, cocoa, and cotton could potentially disappear due to climate change; and the issue isn’t as easy as withholding your morning coffee. Millions of farmers and workers depend on international trade and these products to live.

Fair Trade cannot solve the issue of climate change, but it does support farmers with tools, resources, and practices to become more resilient and sustainable.

Ways You Can Celebrate Fair Trade Month

October is known as Fair Trade Month. Throughout October, ethically-minded consumers, retailers, and brands will unite to celebrate and promote Fair Trade. A variety of educational events, in-store samplings, and online initiatives have been planned to help increase awareness of Fair Trade Certified products, which will ultimately benefit farmers and workers in developing countries.

Here are a few simple actions you can take that will make a big difference during Fair Trade Month:

  • Buy Fair Trade: Try committing to buying at least 1 Fair Trade Certified product a month. By doing this, you’ll be showing your favorite stores that you support Fair Trade.
  • Make the Pledge: If you’ve read this far, then chances are you want to help improve the life of farmers and workers and you want to support the brands that are sourcing ethically and transparently. If you want to make your support known, check out this video to learn more about the Fair Trade pledge.
  • Join a Fair Trade Community: Fair Trade has over 2,100 groups across the world that are working to support the global movement for change. Chances are there is a Fair Trade community near you, and if there isn’t, why not start one with some friends?
  • Use Your Social Networks: If you use Twitter or Instagram, follow @FairTradeUSA for up-to-minute news from the Fair Trade community and have the opportunity to enter giveaways and participate in Twitter parties. During October, tweet using the #FairTradeMonth hashtag to show your support.

Fair Trade Certified Ingredients in the Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom Facial Oil

Humanist Beauty supports the Fair Trade cause. We also firmly believe that giving back, mindfully sourcing ingredients, and respecting the environment are the building blocks that make a business one that is worth purchasing from. Additionally, we’ve taken extra care to ensure that a large portion of our ingredients is Fair Trade Certified.

The Humanist Beauty Herban Wisdom™ Facial Oil contains an abundance of Fair Trade Certified ingredients that have undergone extensive research to match the Fair Trade Standards. These ingredients are:

Product Country of Origin
Organic Plukenetia Volubilis (Sacha Inchi) Seed Oil Peru
Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil Israel
Organic Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Fruit Oil Chile
Organic Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil Morocco
Organic Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil Israel
Organic Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil Spain
Organic Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil Ethiopia
Organic Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil Canada
Organic Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil Egypt
Organic Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Seed Oil Vietnam
Tanacetum Annuum (Tansy) Essential Oil Morocco
Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander) Fruit Extract France
Citrus Aurantium Amara Leaf/Twig (Petitgrain) Oil France


What are some of your favorite Fair Trade products? Share with us in the comments below.



Resources: [1] [2] [3] [4]