Fair Trade: The Meaning and What You Should Know

Fair Trade

Nowadays, chocolates, coffee, banana, or fruits have a fair trade label or mark on them. With these fair trade label, people can immediately know that the product has been certified and it is fair trade. Often consumers don’t think much about fair trade, just that it is something related to treating the workers better. This is true, but fair trade has a much deeper meaning that more people should know about. Also, fair trade is an important step for the world to become a better place. So you must be wondering what does fair trade means and how does it work.
Don’t worry let us go through each and everyone together and learn more about fair trade.

What Does Fair Trade Mean?

So what does fair trade mean? By dictionary definition, fair trade means a trade between companies in developed countries and producers in developing countries in which fair prices are paid to the producers. (Fair Trade)
According to the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO),
“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….” That Fair Trade is more than just a trade, but “a vision of business and trade that put people and planet before profit” and “it fights poverty, climate change, gender inequality and injustice”. (WHO WE ARE)
When we look into the definition of fair trade, it is important to remember that fair trade’s purpose is to help the producers/grower (the people) and the environment (the planet) through ethical trading methods.

Fair Trade’s Mini History

Let us take a look at how the Fair Trade movement started.
It started in the 1940s, it is hard to say who exactly or what organization started the whole Fair Trade Movement. Many people during the 1940s and 1950s have similar ideas; Paul Rice who is the founder of Fair Trade USA started working with coffee farmers in Nicaragua. The basis of Rice’s project became the foundation for Fair Trade Certification (Shoenthal). Ten Thousand Villages and SERRV were also some organizations that had similar projects in the US, while in Europe, Oxfam UK sold crafts made by Chinese refugees (WTFO Administrator WHO WE ARE). More and more similar projects/organizations became available. However, the small individual shops could only provide so much, and the effects were minimal, it wasn’t until the idea of certification or fair trade labels were available that the goods and food were able to reach a bigger market. With the launches of fair trade products in supermarkets, more and more people became aware of fair trade. Nowadays, the fair trade organizations are still fighting to raise more awareness and bring in more fair trade products to the public. And you can help by buying fair trade products and show your support by sharing about them.

How Does Fair Trade Work?

fairtrade coffee farmer
Fair trade requires a lot of transparency and communications before the sellers and the producers and depending on the product, there can be many levels before the product reaches the consumers. With fair trade labels/certificates, consumers can easily identify the product is independently audited and that the product is truly fair trade. For example, for food, the crops are grown and harvested with the international fair trade standards, and the supply chain is also monitored. Depending on the type of fair trade product there might be different Fair Trade Certificates, such as WFTO’s Guaranteed Fair Trade Product Label or the International Fairtrade Certification Mark by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (Fairtrade International). With independent auditors and certification bodies, the products, supply chains, and even the business is held to international Fair Trade standards that monitor the pricing, the labors, the purchasing, and other ethical issues. This is to ensure that there are fair prices, proper wages, no sweatshops or child labor in the process of making the product. So when a consumer sees the fair trade mark, they can rest assured that the product has been checked by a third party that it is made following the international fair trade standards.

*Please remember depending on the country or region you are in, there might be different Fair Trade certification bodies or certification marks.

Why you should buy Fair Trade products

By purchasing fair trade products, you are making a difference for someone else. You are using your money to support another community, reducing the chances that a child is forced to start working at a young age. Helping out a family has a stable income and a livable income. Fair trade products also ensure the environment is not damaged when producing the product, over-harvesting, destroying the forest for crops, and so on. Fair trade is a great way to support others while feeling safe about the product you are using. When you see the fair trademark, you can rest assured that there were no child labor, sweatshop, or dangerous factories when making the product, the growers/farmers were properly made for their work and their produce (fair price), and so on.

Let Us Make a Difference

fairtrade products, chocolate and coffee
Now you have the basics of fair trade down, I hope this article will encourage you to go and buy some fair trade products whenever you can. That has made you become interested in knowing more about fair trade and want to learn more about fair trade. This article has only scratched the surface. Fair trade is a really broad topic and they are definitely something worth reading or knowing about. Even if you are not particular interested in learning about fair trade, just purchasing or supporting the many fair trade products available, such as coffee, chocolate, banana, or artisan crafts you are making a difference for someone else. You are helping the world become a much more sustainable place. One small action you make can really be something big for some else, and fair trade is a great way. Maybe next time when you go to the supermarket, check out what products have the fair trade mark, and if it is something you need or is interested in, give it a try.

Find out more about fair trade products here!

“Fair Trade.” The Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 1992, www.oed.com/.
WFTO Administrator. “WHO WE ARE.” World Fair Trade Organization, 7 Aug. 2020, wfto.com/who-we-are.
Shoenthal, Amy. “What Exactly Is Fair Trade, And Why Should We Care?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Dec. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/amyschoenberger/2018/12/14/what-exactly-is-fair-trade-and-why-should-we-care/.
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!