Mistaken for Fair Trade

Various labels and certifications are readily found on products.  Often times, it is difficult, if not impossible to understand what each label or certification represents.  There are certifications for sustainability made products or to denote socially responsible businesses; however, only the Fair Trade certification ensures a holistic set of trade principles.

Bellow is a list of certifications that are often mistaken for Fair Trade.  While these certifications may embody one principle of Fair Trade, they do not guarantee all Fair Trade principles.

  • Rainforest Alliance: This certification denotes  that a product was made sustainably; however, it does not guarantee that the other principles of Fair Trade were met.


  • USDA Organic: While many Fair Trade brands of coffee, chocolate, or tea are USDA Organic, the Organic label does not denote Fair Trade.


  • Direct Trade: Direct Trade embraces some but not all of the Principles of Fair Trade.


  • Made in the USA: U.S. made products are not necessarily made without using exploited labor or environmentally-damaging techniques.


  • UTZ Certified: The UTZ certification  claims environmental sustainability and improved working conditions.  While these principles sound similar to those of Fair Trade,  UTZ is not a Fair Trade certifier.


  • Green America: Green America certifies businesses that follow a set of sustainability standards; however, these standards are not those of Fair Trade.


  • Shade Grown: Shade grown coffee and other plants are those that are not exposed to direct sunlight which has environmental benefits.  Many Fair Trade coffee brands are shade grown; however, not all shade grown coffees are Fair Trade.


  • Bird Friendly: Bird Friendly coffee is grown without destroying birds’ habitats in Latin America.  Bird Friendly coffee is not necessarily Fair Trade.
Phrases such as “Sustainably Made,” “Ethically Traded,” “Eco-Friendly” may also appear on products. Often times, the definitions of these terms are only defined by the company  itself rather than an unbiased, third party.