Got a question about Fairtrade?

Find answers to some frequently asked questions about Fairtrade.

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  • What is Fairtrade?

    Fairtrade is an independent, third party certification organization, which works in partnership with more than 1.5 million producers in developing countries. Our mission is to secure decent working conditions, fair prices, and better terms of trade. In this way, producers are empowered to improve their social, environmental and economic sustainability.


    Fairtrade requires that companies pay fair prices. We also work hard to level out the inequalities of global trade as we know it, which traditionally discriminates against the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.


    Through Fairtrade, farmers and workers take control and build sustainable futures for themselves, their families, and their communities.

  • What is fair trade?

    The difference between “Fairtrade” and “fair trade” is that “Fairtrade” refers only to Fairtrade organizations (such as Fairtrade America) or products certified through the Fairtrade International system. Conversely, “fair trade” can refer to many different things – the fair trade movement, fair trade products generally, products that claim to be fairly traded but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark.

  • What is the difference between Fairtrade and direct trade?

    Fairtrade is a global system that adheres to rigorous, internationally agreed standards to ensure that the most vulnerable farmers and workers are empowered to improve their own lives. By choosing products that bear the FAIRTRADE Mark, you have an independent verification that the claims made by the company selling that product are grounded in concrete evidence.

         

    Direct trade mainly is used in reference to coffee and implies a direct relationship between the farmer and the company (usually a coffee roaster). Direct trade and its principles of getting to know and appreciate farmers more is something that we applaud. However, there is no way to verify if a company/roaster’s claims of fair prices and good treatment are correct other than their own word.

         

    Furthermore, although some roasters may deal directly with farmers they still rely on intermediaries like exporters and importers. Therefore, there are still multiple links in their supply chain.

  • Who is Fairtrade America?

    Fairtrade America is the independent, non-profit, local marketing organization for Fairtrade International, working with businesses in the USA who buy and sell Fairtrade products, and license the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark. We raise public awareness of the importance of fairer trade and adhere to and enforce the internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards.

  • What is the FAIRTRADE Mark?

    The FAIRTRADE Mark is the most recognized ethical label globally. When you see the FAIRTRADE Mark on a product, you know that it has been certified under Fairtrade’s internationally recognized standards to offer a better deal for farmers and workers. The Mark does not endorse a company’s entire business, but rather that Fairtrade ingredients in a particular product have met the agreed standards.

  • Who is Fairtrade International?

    Fairtrade International is made up of its global Fairtrade organizations, like Fairtrade America. As a system, Fairtrade is half-owned and governed by our farmers and workers, who have 50% of the votes in the Fairtrade General Assembly. Fairtrade International is responsible for the development of the Fairtrade Standards for products to support farmers and workers.

  • Who is FLOCERT?

    FLOCERT is the independent third-party auditor that checks farmers and workers, traders and companies against the set Fairtrade Standards. They regularly audit to ensure that the rigorous social, economic and environmental standards are met. They hold an ISO 17065 standard for certification bodies.

  • What is a Fairtrade registered licensee?

    A registered Fairtrade licensee has the rights to use the FAIRTRADE Mark on specific products, as covered by a signed License Agreement with the National Fairtrade Organization in their area. To find out how to license the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on your Fairtrade products in our Business Section.

  • What are the Fairtrade Standards?

    The Fairtrade Standards are internationally set and agreed to standards covering minimum social, economic and environmental requirements that must be met by producers to become and maintain Fairtrade certification. The Standards also cover ongoing development requirements to encourage the growth and improvement of farmer organizations and workers conditions and rights.

    Read more about the standards here.

  • What is a Fairtrade Certified Producer Group?

    A Fairtrade Certified Producer Group can be either a farmers’ cooperative or a company which relies on hired labor, with production of a commodity covered by the Fairtrade Standards. The producer group is certified, meeting the international Fairtrade Standards, and added to the register of Fairtrade products in order to sell their product on Fairtrade terms to companies like traders or manufacturers who are registered to buy Fairtrade products.

         

    Some Fairtrade producer groups sell all of their production on Fairtrade terms, though others may only sell some of what they produce under Fairtrade and need more companies to make commitments in order to increase the sustainability. Through increasing the volume of product sold under Fairtrade, these groups can secure a reliable and fair income in order to improve their lives.

  • What is the Fairtrade Minimum Price?

    The Fairtrade Minimum Price is the price floor set by Fairtrade International for a commodity covered under the Fairtrade Standards. It is the lowest possible price a buyer can pay a producer for a Fairtrade product to allow the producer to remain sustainable. When the market price is higher, a trader must pay the market price. The Minimum Price is set through consultations with Fairtrade farmers, workers, and traders, and represents a sustainable price, aimed to cover the costs of production.

  • What is the Fairtrade Premium?

    The Fairtrade Premium is an additional fund paid to producers on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price, to be invested in social, environmental and/or economic development projects for their communities and businesses. Funds are allocated to and invested in projects democratically elected by producer groups. Read more about how the Fairtrade Premium is used.

  • What is a fair trade town/school/university/congregation?

    Local communities, congregations, schools and universities can rally together to make a commitment to fair trade. To find out more and engage your group to empower producers in developing countries, visit Fairtrade Campaigns.

  • What difference does Fairtrade makes to the farmers and workers themselves?

    Yes! Read up on Fairtrade producer groups and individuals case studies to see the real change Fairtrade has delivered for farmers and workers in developing countries.

         

    Check out our Farmers and Workers page.

  • How many Fairtrade products are there in the US?

    There are hundreds of Fairtrade products available in the United States! Visit our Fairtrade Products section to search products and companies.

  • What product categories does Fairtrade certify?

    Food products:

    - Coffee

    - Cocoa

    - Fresh Fruit & Fresh Vegetables like bananas and avocados as well as dried fruits and juices

    - Sugar & Sweeteners like honey and agave syrup

    - Tea

    - Wine

    - Rice

    - Nuts/Oil Seeds/Oil

    - Spices

    - Quinoa

         

    Other products:

    - Cotton

    - Beauty products and cosmetics

    - Sports Balls

    - Flowers and Ornamental Plants

    - Precious metals (Silver, Platinum, and Gold)

         

    New products are added regularly. Email us at questions@fairtradeamerica.org to see if a particular product is Fairtrade certified.

  • Where can I buy Fairtrade products?

    Everywhere! Fairtrade products are in almost every major grocery store as well as cafes, convenience stores, cafeterias and more.

  • How do I stock Fairtrade certified products in my shop?

    Take a look at our business section to learn more about buying and selling Fairtrade products.

  • My local store doesn’t offer Fairtrade products, what can I do?

    Ask them! Letting a shop know you want more Fairtrade products is the best way to make sure they get stocked. Contact Fairtrade Campaigns for “product request cards” that are a more formal way of requesting ethical products.

         

    When your shop starts stocking Fairtrade products, pass on the word and get others to support them in turn!

  • How much of the price I pay for Fairtrade products goes to the farmers and workers?

    The FAIRTRADE Mark on a product means that farmers and workers have been paid at least the Fairtrade Minimum Price (and often more) and received Premium funds for investment in their communities or businesses. When you find Fairtrade products on a store shelf, all requirements have already been meant – this means they are not reliant on the retail price or sales of finished products to receive a fairer deal for their goods.

  • Why doesn’t the retail price factor in the price of a Fairtrade product?

    People often question how much of what they pay for a Fairtrade product on the shelf goes back to the farmers and workers, and how this amount differs to a product not sold under Fairtrade terms. This may seem like an easy way to explain the impact that Fairtrade has from a consumer’s viewpoint, however it doesn’t get to the core issues and inequalities of the traditional trading systems.

         

    For the farmers and workers we work with, the value of Fairtrade doesn’t lie in the selling price of the product on shelf, but the production costs and market prices. Numerous factors impact and play a part in determining the retail price paid by consumers. Consider the following factors, which must be taken into account by a coffee or cocoa producer selling into the conventional market:

         


    - Shifting market prices – The percentage of what a producer would receive from the sale of a bag of coffee would change, depending on the international price of coffee at the time.


    - If they own the farm they work or if they are hired labor on another’s farm.


    - If the cooperative does any processing of the cocoa or coffee before selling it on.


    - If the cooperative sells to local buyers or at auctions, of if they also act as the exporter of the product.


    - The conditions of local trade have significant differences across the world, including whether the industry is independently managed or regulated by governments.


    - Costs of production also differ across the world.


    Once the Fairtrade commodity is sold to a Fairtrade importer, the following costs are comparable to those for non-Fairtrade products. This includes costs such as transport, insurance, import taxes, processing, packing, storage, distribution, promotion and day-to-day store costs.

         

    Fairtrade does not have any say or power to effect retail costs or product profit margins. When producers are paid fairly up front, rather than after a product, that is the best way to ensure they are receiving a fair deal.

  • Why do some products claim they are “fairly traded” but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark?

    Some organizations have been trading fairly for many years, before the creation of Fairtrade. The creation of new Fairtrade Standards is a long and considered process, and many of these organizations sell products that do not fall under them (like handicrafts), instead following the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) 10 principles of fair trade.

         

    Some companies create ‘fair trade’ claims without the independent, third party foundation that Fairtrade has, or without being a member of a network such as WFTO. Consumers should question these claims. Look for the FAIRTRADE Mark as a trustworthy way to know that farmers and workers are actually receiving a better deal and fairer trading conditions.

  • Why aren’t handicrafts Fairtrade certified?

    Fairtrade was created to cover commodities, such as cocoa, coffee and cotton. These type of products represent a large percentage of international trade and have traditionally not ensured that the producer gets a fair deal.

         

    Fairtrade Standards are revised continually in order to stay on top of changing market factors. Sign up to our newsletter to be informed of any changes regarding handicrafts.

  • How do I get my product certified or source a Fairtrade certified product?

    Take a look at the Business section on our website. Our Business Development Team will help you through the process of certifying your products.

  • Who is responsible for setting Fairtrade Standards?

    The Standards Unit at Fairtrade International are responsible for setting the international, commodity specific standards, which include the Minimum Price and Premium payments. The process follows the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Social and Environmental Labeling, including stakeholders—such as producers, traders and non-government organizations—in the research, consultation and decision making. Read more here.

  • Why are the same Fairtrade prices set worldwide and others set for specific countries or regions?

    Some Fairtrade products—like cocoa, nuts and juices—have the same price across the world. However most products have prices set specifically for a country or region, to more accurately reflect the production costs involved, which often greatly differ.

         

    Most commonly, Fairtrade International sets new prices at a regional level, to lessen the need for additional research, which may draw out the process of certifying new producer groups. If variances between production costs of countries within a region greatly differ, then the farmers or workers and other stakeholders agree on a price that is suitable for the entire region.

  • Why doesn’t Fairtrade certify coffee plantations?

    Of the world’s coffee farmers, 70% are small-scale farm owners, who must deal with specific challenges in the international market. Fairtrade’s mission is to make trade fairer for these disadvantaged farmers and workers, and as such the system decided as a whole to support sustainable purchase from these small-holder farmers.

  • How does Fairtrade label composite products

    A number of Fairtrade products are 100% Fairtrade certified, including sugar, coffee, rice, tea and flowers. Other products, however, such as cookies, chocolate and ice cream, are made with multiple Fairtrade ingredients including cocoa, vanilla and sugar, and non-certified ingredients such as eggs, milk or flour. These are called ‘composite products’.

     

    Fairtrade has developed a number of requirements for use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on composite products - click here to find out more.

  • Are Fairtrade products fully traceable?

    For most Fairtrade products that make up 100% of the final retail product—such as coffee, spices, rice, flowers, bananas—the Fairtrade Standards call for these products to be fully traceable. Therefore, these products can be tracked at each level of the supply chain, from the farm to the store. For some other products however, this proved to be near impossible in terms of how they are processed and manufactured.

         

    Take chocolate for example. Cocoa beans are delivered by farmers in bulk, mixed during shipping, and mixed again during manufacture. Chocolate companies cannot always keep the Fairtrade cocoa beans separate from the uncertified beans.

         

    As opposed to restricting this entire industry from using Fairtrade cocoa—therefore disadvantaging the thousands of small farmers who would have been able to sell on Fairtrade terms—we have set up a system under ‘mass balance’ so that manufacturers can purchase exact amounts of the Fairtrade commodities needed to create their final product and bear the FAIRTRADE Mark on their packaging.

         

    For example, for a chocolate block that uses 300 pounds of cocoa, a manufacturer must buy 300 pounds of cocoa on Fairtrade terms and pay the additional Fairtrade Premium for community development. So, even though the cocoa beans may later be mixed with cocoa bought on the conventional market, the cocoa farmers are still benefitting.

         

    Our strict evaluation and auditing system makes sure that the amount of Fairtrade products manufactured is correct for the amount of Fairtrade commodities that have been traded.

  • Is buying Fairtrade products a good idea given concerns on climate change?

    Fairtrade recognizes that global action must be taken now to address climate change.

         

    Food miles have come under scrutiny in the climate change debate, which could prove harmful to the economic and social development opportunities created for Fairtrade farmers and workers, who abide by sustainable production standards.

         

    Agriculture plays a big part in the economies of developing countries—for example, it looks to be the most likely source of growth in Africa’s future through benefitting the rural, poor and disadvantaged farmers and workers in the sector.

         

    The evidence of a warming planet is strong, and we must now engage in discussions to find the best way to reduce the impacts of climate change and support developing countries through sustainable development into the future.

  • What about genetically modified organisms?

    Consumers are worried about genetically modified (GM) crops, and the hazards they bring. Fairtrade does not allow GM crops, and supports farmers to monitor their neighboring fields. Contamination, however, is still possible, and it is for this reason that we do not label our products as 100% Non-GMO.

         

    Read the Q&A on Fairtrade standards and Genetically Modified Organisms

  • Why doesn’t the FAIRTRADE Mark apply to American Farmers?

    Fairtrade was created especially to support the world’s most disadvantaged farmers and workers, using trade as a way to encourage and build sustainable development in developing countries.

         

    We also recognize that some farmers and farm workers in America are also struggling to make ends meet and achieve high social and environmental standards. This being said, there are some major differences between production in our country and that in developing countries.

         

    Most farmers in developing countries do not have infrastructure support, systems or safety nets in place to assist them if they cannot get a sustainable price for their goods. Fairtrade’s expertise lie in developing standards to enable these farmers and workers to work their way out of poverty through fairer trade. If we shifted our focus to also include developed nations like the USA, it would reduce the benefits we are currently able to provide our producers—the very producers Fairtrade was created to support.

  • Some people say buy local rather than buy Fairtrade, what is Fairtrade America’s response?

    We believe that consumers should support both local and imported Fairtrade products. We support sustainable production in the United States, while continuing with our own clear specialized to support farmers and workers in developing countries.

         

    We do not see Fairtrade products as being in competition with those locally grown in the US. Consumers are able to support both Fairtrade and local. Many of our products (such as bananas and coffee) are grown in very specific climates, meaning that their local production in the US is minimal (currently only Hawaii grows coffee, for instance). For other products, local supply cannot meet the demand, or Fairtrade imports mean that certain fruits can be made available year round. Even others, such as wine, are regularly imported due to their unique tastes based on the growing region.

         

    It is up to customers themselves to make the decision in the shopping aisle to weigh up their choices and do what they see fit when taking into account the interests of people and the planet we share. The most important thing is that we all strive to make informed choices whenever we can. You can help by being a Fairtrade champion, and helping to raise awareness of how our choices can have significant positive impact on the lives of disadvantaged farmers and workers.

  • Can I put the FAIRTRADE Mark on my website or promotional materials?

    If your business sells or promotes Fairtrade products, you can display the FAIRTRADE Mark on your website or promotional materials by following our Promotional use of the FAIRTRADE Mark guidelines.

    Contact us at questions@fairtradeamerica.org to confirm your use of the Mark.

  • Where can I get free promotional materials?

    You can order FREE Fairtrade promotional materials by filling in this form.

  • Where can I find images of Fairtrade producers?

    Get in touch to see how we can help you to source photos of Fairtrade producers. Email us at questions@fairtradeamerica.org

  • Can someone come and give a talk to my group?

    There is high demand for Fairtrade representatives to talk on our system and producers, but unfortunately we are not able to accept all invitations. To request a speaker at a major event, please email us at events@fairtradeamerica.org.

  • Where can I get free samples of Fairtrade products for an event?

    We have a limited number of free samples and want to help as many groups as we can. To order samples, please email us at events@fairtradeamerica.org.

  • I am a student doing a project on Fairtrade; can Fairtrade America send me information?

    It is always excellent to hear of the many students who complete projects on Fairtrade! Unfortunately, our limited capacity makes it very hard to personally help students with their projects. We hope that you can find all the information you need for your work on our extensive website.

         

    Check out our Farmers and Workers pages, and also refer to the Fairtrade International website. 

  • How do I visit a Fairtrade Producer Group?

    Though many producer groups receive requests for visits from committed consumers, they unfortunately are not able to host tours due to limited resources and the disruption it causes for their work. However some specific visits, such as those by the media or organizations looking to fund particular farms, may be able to be organized. Get in touch with our team to see if we can help with your request.

         

    Some independent organizations are now working with a small number of Fairtrade groups to offer tourist visits and help the farmers to generate additional income. These include Makaibari Tea Estate in India, Higher Grounds Trading Co. visits to Mexican coffee cooperatives, and walks with The Toledo Ecotourism Association to visit cocoa farmers in Belize.

         

    Please note that Fairtrade America claims no responsibility for these independent projects.