How Do You Know It’s Really Fair Trade?
Certification is probably one of the most confusing issues with fair trade. It is, however, extremely important as the movement grows. We will see more claims for “fair trade” in the future just as we’ve seen the term “green” associated with everything from garbage bags to corn flakes. In a nutshell, here is how it works.
In the United States there are a few main bodies involved with certification:
- FAIR TRADE FEDERATION – Another organization involved in certification is The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) which approves companies (not specific products). Each member company goes through a rigorous screening process which includes a detailed examination of the company including references. Transparency is the key, and sample cost work-ups from suppliers are important. It is critical to know that each supplier is both charging and receiving a fair price for their product. Additional guidelines include prompt payment, ensuring rights of children, safe working conditions and environmental stewardship. A member company may use the FTF logo (two hands crossing in an oval) in all their materials except on the product itself. The most common products offered by FTF members are non-consumables which include items such as clothing, gifts, accessories and jewelry.
- FAIR FOR LIFE – “Fair for Life” is a brand neutral third party certification program for social accountability and fair trade in agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. The program complements existing fair trade certification systems such as TransFair/Fair Labor Organization certifications. It is more prominent in Europe but is beginning to be utilized by U.S. companies including Equal Exchange and Dr. Bronner’s. Fair for Life Social & Fair Trade Certification guarantees that human rights are guaranteed at any stage of production, that workers enjoy good and fair working conditions and that smallholder farmers receive a fair share. Fair trade improves the livelihood of thousands of smallholder farmers and workers by providing the means for social community projects and empowerment of people.
- FAIR TRADE INTERNATIONAL – Fair Trade International is the organization that coordinates Fair trade labeling at an international level. From our offices, in Bonn, Germany, we set international Fair trade standards, organize support for producers around the world, develop global Fair trade strategy, and promote trade justice internationally
- FAIR TRADE AMERICA – Fair Trade America is the US specific branch of Fair Trade International. Fair Trade America uses the same mark as Fair Trade International
- FAIR TRADE USA – Fair Trade USA (formerly Transfair USA) certifies food products and ingredients. Some examples are: coffee, tea, sugar, rice, bananas, pineapples, vanilla extract, and cocoa. They also provide their certification label for products that contain fair trade ingredients (e.g. a candy bar that was produced using fair trade cocoa or an ice cream produced using fair trade vanilla extract). A company which offers fair trade products certified through Fair Trade USA may not necessarily be considered a fair trade company. Only the product or products with the certification label are fair trade. Product certification involves actual inspections at the product source.