What is Fair Trade?

Posted on 12. Mar, 2013 by in Articles

Undoubtedly, as a serious coffee lover, you must have come across the Fair Trade certification logo on certain products you purchased. Not only does the Fair Trade symbol appear on coffee, but also on cocoa, sugar and other commodities. In this article, we will give you an introduction into the concept that Fair Trade represents so that you will be more familiar with the meaning behind the label the next time you see it.

Fair Trade – The basic concept

The basic concept of Fair Trade is very much self-explanatory. In short, Fair Trade is a non-profit organization that advocates the fair treatment of farmers who grow commodity products all over the world. This includes fair wages, no child labor, no slavery, no harmful chemicals and no genetically modified foods. The organization certifies products with its labels to let customers make an informed choice about what they support by their purchase.

Fair Trade – The vision and the mission

A helpful way to gain insight into what an organization intends to do (and hopefully does in practice too) is to look at their mission statement and core values. Based on the available information here is how we can best present Fair Trade to you, fellow coffee lovers. This organization believes in a world where people are free and are empowered to make their own choices and are treated fairly. Relationships should be built on trust, mutual respect and honesty. Production should be carried out sustainably with a long-term benefit to the earth in mind. The quality delivered as a result of production should always be excellent. Innovation can be used as a powerful tool for transforming the world in a constructive way. The community that is the part of Fair Trade is a collaborative group that recognizes the importance of personal development.

Fair Trade – The certification process

While this sounds all great, you are surely wondering how Fair Trade Organization makes sure that the merchandise you see on the shelves bearing its stamp actually qualifies to be considered a Fair Trade certified product.

In short, the producers must themselves submit their registration application to the organization that will review their request and eventually audit the producers. The audit will be performed on location and will examine the working conditions and the general production methods of the producer. Interviews will be conducted with the workers to get their perspectives as well. The auditor will then address any remaining questions to the leaders of the production unit to conclude the audit. If the producer receives the Fair Trade certification, the organization will perform regular surveillance audits in the first and second year and the fourth and fifth years after the initial certificate has been received.

How fair is Fair Trade?

Some critics have debated Fair Trade as a method that is insufficient in achieving the long-term improvement of the lives of farmers in developing countries. Common arguments include that the whole concept makes farmers dependent on Western spending habits and ultimately reliant on the willingness of wealthier customers to pay a premium for Fair Trade certified goods. On top of all this, producers must pay the organization heavy sums of money to receive the audit, let alone the certification.

Of course, we must recognize that as much as anything can be criticized, Fair Trade is a good intentioned initiative that aims to serve the benefit of not just the farmers but also the consumers. The quality control not only ensures that the farmers get better treatment but also that customers get only the highest quality produce for their money. Also, though the price may be higher, it is closer to the price we should be realistically paying for the luxury of enjoying a cup of coffee.


All in all, Fair Trade is a label that you should definitely be familiar with, whether or not you like or agree with the concept. We hope that the article helped to shed some light on the meaning behind the certification label that you have undoubtedly come across by now. Our best bet is that we will be seeing more and more of Fair Trade in the future.

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