Fair Trade

Fair Trade, according to the International Fair Trade Charter, is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. The Fair Trade movement is made up of individuals, organizations and networks that share a common vision of a world in which justice, equity and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices.

Fair Trade is based on modes of production and trade that put people and the planet before financial profit, aiming to ensure that everyone, through their work, can develop their full human potential. It changes the way trade works through higher prices, improved working conditions and fairer deals for farmers and workers allowing them to have more control over their lives and decide how to invest in their future.

Fair trade is subject to very few legal safeguards and is therefore open to a variety of interpretations and methods of implementation. France is one of the few countries in which fair trade has a legal definition. The first fair trade initiatives were based on direct relations between organizations in the Global North, whose core mission was fair trade, and producers’ organizations in the Global South. 

Since the end of the 1980s, fair trade actors have been able to use a new resource, the label, which has facilitated a wider distribution of products. A Fair Trade label is a special mark on a product or a service for sale which certifies that specific standards have been implemented for its production. Labels are created and managed by private professional bodies in the fair trade sector. The variety of labels matches the diversity within the fair trade movement; some of the most known are listed below. 
The ATES label has recently emerged within the fair tourism sector, as an alternative to mass tourism; it mainly focuses on creating local economic impacts and on developing human exchanges between travellers and local communities.

The Fair for Life label comes from the organic sector and it is based on a non product-specific standard. The recent merger with the Ecocert Fair Trade system guarantees it is a complete and professional fair trade standard. The new system has added requirements and clarifications on "long term relationship" (meaning minimum 3 years) and how to handle situations when trading relationships end. Additionally, some further conditions on sourcing of raw materials and on community relations are mandatory.  

Biopartenaire is a fair trade label mainly used on the French market; it relies on either
  • the Fair For Life standards for all value chains with additional compulsory criteria (organic certification and long-term contract for all partners of the supply chain); 
  • or on FiABLE standards (controls are performed both by a certification body and by Biopartenaire).

Fairtrade International is the oldest and globally best known fair trade label. Within the Fairtrade system, it remains the primary actor in the sector, serving as the main point of reference (i.e. for minimum prices). It is one of the few fair trade labels that effectively relies on a network of farmers and workers to implement proper advocacy and awareness-raising of citizens and consumers. It aims to promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty whilst trying to prevent deforestation and climate change. 

Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) developed the Fair Trade Certified label in 2012 from a split-off with Fairtrade International provoked by FTUSA’s desire to expand the boundaries of fair trade. It has a relatively weak threshold for the use of the label, requiring just 20% of certified ingredients for the use of a front panel seal. FTUSA is weak in stakeholder accountability through the governance structure which has led them to apply their standards to controversial situations such as apparel factories and coffee plantations. 

Naturland, a pioneer in the German organic sector,  launched in 2010 and has become an international association active in many areas (sustainable forest management, sustainable fishing, cosmetics, textiles, etc.). It created various standards dedicated to commodities not covered by the "Organic Agriculture" label. The label certifies products processed by companies already certified through "Naturland" standards, which cover requirements on corporate social responsibility and organic production. It was one of the first labels to open its certification to producers from OECD countries. 

The Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP) label emerged in the fair trade sector and on the international market in 2011. This fair trade label is one created and managed by producers, which are the majority of the stakeholders (at least 2/3) in all decision making bodies. Historically created in Latin America, it is gradually spreading to Africa and Asia. The SPP Global requirements focus primarily on the commercial relationship between producer organizations and buyers. On the whole, SPP minimum prices are often higher than those published by other fair trade labels. 

The WFTO is a member-based organisation, that was founded to support marginalized populations and preserve traditional skills. During their general meeting in India in 2017, members voted to include north-north trading where the beneficiary groups are economically marginalized. WFTO includes third party audits, completed by peer audits in the monitoring process and recognises other fair trade certifications. Through the WFTO network, a heavy emphasis is placed on advocacy and awareness-raising of citizens and consumers. In September 2019, the General Meeting of WFTO decided to strengthen the criteria dedicated to environment and climate change in the standards.