An Update on Fair and Ethical Trading Organizations (Jan 2012)

The fair and ethical trading movement is a social phenomena which emerged in response to consumer concern that farmers in poor countries were not receiving fair compensation for the commodities they produced, considering the consumer facing prices obtained in the developed world.  It initially focused on coffee, tea, cocoa and handicrafts but the movement now encompasses most agricultural products and even textiles where the supply chain involves developing-country farmers or co-operatives.   Like its organic counterpart, the movement developed via parallel organizations in Europe and North America, but in the last decade or so, the Bonn-based Fairtrade International emerged as a collaboration of 25 national fair and ethical trading bodies, 18 of them from Europe.  These organizations such as the UK's Fairtrade Foundation produce or promote at the national level products which are allowed carry the familiar green and blue Fairtrade Certification MarkFlo-Cert is an affiliated organization that provides the certification services which allow producers and traders to use the mark.  Fairtrade International states: "There are now 827 Fairtrade certified producer organizations in 58 producing countries, representing over 1.2 million farmers and workers. In addition to other benefits, approximately €52 million was distributed to communities in 2009 for use in community development. Including families and dependents, Fairtrade International estimates that six million people directly benefit from Fairtrade.  The sales of Fairtrade certified products grew 15% between 2008-2009. In 2009, Fairtrade certified sales amounted to approximately €3.4 billion worldwide."   Subsequent growth has been 20-30%, even more depending on product category.  Despite this impressive growth, a notable absence from Fairtrade International's network is a US based organization.  The closest is Fairtrade Canada.   Former Fairtrade International member Fair Trade USA  left the fold at the end of 2011.  Formerly known as TransFair USA, and a Fairtrade International member for many years, Fair Trade USA Chief Executive Paul Rice says it will now be easier to make business-friendly decisions and double fair-trade sales by 2015.  Its new campaign is known as "Fair Trade for All" and it will revert to its own branded logo with certifications to be carried out by leading US inspection body Scientific Certification Systems.    Thus, as is common with many sustainability standards (such as organic and forestry) appears to be a largely unified group representing Europe, Australasia and Canada, with the standards and key organizations representing the US markets are reluctant to fit under a Europe-based umbrella organization.   Fair Trade USA is not the only organization coordinating and promoting fair and ethical trading markets.  The Fair Trade Federation "is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to Fair Trade", with its own logo, although it does not sponsor a certification system.    Despite this divide, the markets for fair and ethically traded products continue to grow well beyond the conventional-market rates for categories they cover (bananas, coffee, tea etc) and the Fairtrade Mark remains the world's most-recognized sustainability logo and brand for consumers.
(See our 2011 article on the Fair Trade USA split from Fairtrade International).