You may have noticed the Fairtrade mark on foods and drinks as you’ve been shopping. This distinctive blue and green stamp appears on everything from coffee to bananas.
But what does it mean?
What do fair trade organisations do? How is it better for the farmers? What does it mean to buy a fairly traded product? Why does it usually mean an item comes with higher price tag? What’s the difference between Fairtrade and fair trade?
Here, we clear up the answers to all these questions and more Fairtrade facts!
Who Are Fairtrade? What Is Fair Trade?
There’s a distinct difference between the two. Fairtrade is an organisation overseeing the fair trade of goods. Fair trade means that the product has been traded fairly.
Fairtrade is a worldwide organisation. It ensures that farmers and workers are not exploited or forced to accept low payments for their hard work.
Farmers are paid a fair price for their fair trade food and work in fair conditions. They’re supported to run businesses that are sustainable and can expect a stable income.
Fair trade is also about the prevention of unjust and abusive practices. Other, less ethical companies may turn a blind eye to these, as resolving them could impact profit. Under Fairtrade Standards, human rights are protected. Child labour is not permitted, nor is sexual harassment. The organisation carefully oversees supply chains too.
But Fairtrade doesn’t just ensure that farmers are paid a fair price. Or that they’re only paid a decent wage and have reasonable working conditions.
The community-based cooperatives who work with Fairtrade are all democratically elected. They can also earn a Fairtrade Premium which they, as a community, can decide how to use.
The premium is added to what the farmers and communities already earn from the sale of their goods. The Fairtrade Premium is calculated as a percentage of the volume of produce sold. The extra sum that each farmer received depends on product sales.
Fairtrade is transparent. They openly publish their stats and standards on their website. Plus, each producer organisation and company that Fairtrade work with are independently certified. This is carried out by an organisation called FLO-CERT.
Why Is Fair Trade Important?
Conventional trade typically works in favour of industries from developed countries. These more developed countries often take advantage of producers in poorer countries.
This is particularly true in developing countries where laws are not always in place to protect farmers and workers. All too often, individuals have little choice but to work in unsafe or unsanitary conditions. They work without a fair wage, or without reasonable payment for their products.
In short, the poorest and weakest communities suffer. All so that large companies can earn more profit.
Fairtrade addresses this imbalance of power. It ensures that the companies they work with don’t pay below the market price for goods. Fairtrade gives farmers a voice and empowers communities by allowing them to decide to whom and for what price their goods are sold.
It’s easy to see the benefits of the work of Fairtrade on fellow humans, wherever they are in the world.
Some Fairtrade Facts
Fairtrade Farmers and Workers
Fairtrade Certified Organisations
Portion of all Fairtrade workers and farmers who are female
Portion of all Fairtrade farmers who produce coffee
Countries involved with Fairtrade
Number of hectares used to grow Fairtrade goods
The Fruits of Fairtrade Labour
Bananas have always been cheap to buy in the UK. They’ve become even cheaper over the last decade with the average price falling from 18p to 11p.
A 7p difference may not seem a lot to UK shoppers. But the price drop was a catastrophe for banana farmers across Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and West Africa. In Colombia especially, life on banana plantations become unsustainable.
Fairtrade has been supporting banana farmers and local cooperatives for over 20 years. Fairtrade standards have helped to introduce a minimum price for bananas. They’ve helped protect workers’ rights and ensure that banana production remains environmentally sustainable.
In a survey, 96% of smallholders in Columbia said that their economic situation had improved since joining Fairtrade. 98% of workers said they felt a sense of job security compared to just 9% on non-Fairtrade plantations.
The outlook is positive in other parts of the world too. In Ghana, 65% of workers on Fairtrade plantations saw an improvement in grievances and sexual harassment.
The income and wellbeing have improved in the last three years for 75% of smallholder producer organisations in Ecuador.
These are remarkably positive Fairtrade facts. Perhaps it’s worth paying that extra 7p after all?
Behind the Fairtrade Mark
The Fairtrade mark is a registered certification label. It’s used on products which have been sourced in less economically developed countries. The label indicates that the product meets Fairtrade Standards.
Behind the mark is Fairtrade International. This is a non-profit organisation which unites more than 20 labelling initiatives across the globe. The organisation board is represented by international members and partners.
In the UK, the Fairtrade Foundation awards products with the international Fairtrade Mark. (The Fairtrade Foundation is a member of Fairtrade International).
If a business believes their product to be of a Fairtrade standard, they can apply to the Fairtrade Foundation. If successful, they can then use the Fairtrade Mark in their branding and marketing.
In more recent years, Fairtrade has introduced a Fairtrade Source Ingredients (FSI) Mark. This indicates that one or more ingredients within the final product are Fairtrade certified.
For example, this could be Fairtrade sugar or cocoa used in breakfast cereals. Or Fairtrade honey in shampoo.
A Fairer Future
It’s true that Fairtrade products do come with a higher price tag, but they should!
By paying a fair price, we ensure that the farmers, workers and communities who produce our products aren’t suffering for our benefit.
The rise in ethical shoppers has made it easier for us to find Fairtrade goods. Our local supermarkets are now full of them. In fact, there are over 4,500 Fairtrade products available from major UK retailers.
The Fairtrade mark is often found on ethically sourced Fairtrade coffee beans and chocolate. But fair trade isn’t just for food and drinks.
You can also find the Fairtrade mark on cotton, flowers, clothes, gold and beauty products. And it couldn’t be easier to buy unusual fair trade products such as cola and olive oil.
Until companies stop taking advantage of producers in the developing world, it’s up to us. The more we as consumers buy responsibly, the better. And that’s a Fairtrade fact worth shouting from the rooftops!