Fair Trade Certification 101

Here at Responsibly Different™, we believe people can harness their purchasing power for good. As a certified B Corp, we love to support our fellow B Corps — and we do every week on our podcast through interviews with thought leaders!

That said, there are so many amazing certifications that signify to consumers that brands are doing their part to improve business, including 1% for the Planet and the Benefit Corporation Certification

What is Fair Trade?

Founded in 1998, Fair Trade USA is 501(C)(3) nonprofit that acts as a third-party arbiter of ethical business practices at every stage of the supply chain in North America. 

For nearly 25 years, the nonprofit has operated on the belief that everyone should be able to participate in ethical trade — in particular prioritizing the rights of farmers and other workers who work at farms large and small. 

Fair Trade is exactly what it sounds like: A label that signifies a brand engages in practices that make trade fair for everyone involved — from farmers and small business owners to freight workers and all the way to consumers. 

Although we tend to associate the Fair Trade Certification with coffee, the nonprofit regulates 30 categories including homewares, seafood, apparel, produce, and more.

Why shop Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is founded upon “the simple idea that the products bought and sold daily are connected to the livelihoods of others.”

When you see the official Fair Trade certification on items, you can rest assured that you can purchase them with good conscience, as they support ethical and sustainable farming practices, both in terms of the environment and working conditions. 

Of course, brands and organizations can say they engage in ethical business practices — but what matters is the actions taken. Enter: The Fair Trade Certification.

Attain the Fair Trade Certification

In order to attain the Fair Trade Certification, prospective applicants must meet incredibly high standards in terms of ethics related to the climate, economy, and workers’ rights. 

These standards include safe working conditions, sustainable practices aligned with the United Nation’s SDGs, liveable wages, and community development.

Every Fair Trade Certified company commits revenue from their products back to the Community Development Funds, which are distributed among communities that played a hand in the making of the product. 

Fair Trade assesses each community’s needs and accordingly puts that money toward projects that will enrich the lives of farmers and workers — including COVID-19 relief, access to clean water, housing, and resources for education, among other things. In June, Fair Trade announced that over $1 billion of aid has been distributed through these funds since 1998.

How To Support Fair Trade Businesses.

As we often say here at Responsibly Different™, the best way to have your voice heard is to vote with your dollar. October is recognized as Fair Trade month, meant to amplify the certification. But it’s a great idea to support Fair Trade businesses all year round. 

To support Fair Trade Certified businesses, the Fair Trade Federation suggests:

  • Seek out Fair Trade when you shop online
  • Supporting Fair Trade Certified shops in your city
  • Learn about Fair Trade (which you’re doing right now by reading this!)
  • Seek out Fair Trade Certified suppliers or wholesalers when applicable