Fair Trade FAQs

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade products are food or crafts that are produced under standards designed to end and prevent the poverty, sweatshop labor conditions, environmental degradation, etc that are endemic to the free trade “race to the bottom” that puts profits above people and the planet.
A widely recognized definition of Fair Trade is enumerated in the FINE Principles:  
“Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
“Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade.”
The exact standards of Fair Trade that a company follows depend on the company’s Fair Trade certifier or membership organization.
How do I know if a product or company is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade food and drinks are certified by independent, third party labeling organizations.  Global Exchange acknowledges Fair Trade certification for food and drinks by two organizations:
  • Fairtrade Labeling Organization/Fair Trade USA (Note: For coffee and cocoa, this certification indicates that the product was grown by small farmers in democratically organized cooperatives, which play a crucial role in the empowerment of farmers.  The certification has especially strong standards prohibiting child labor.)
  • Institute for Marketecology (IMO)
  • FairTrade America
For clothing and crafts, look for membership in the Fair Trade Federation, an association of businesses that follow Fair Trade principles exclusively. 
What is the impact of Fair Trade on labor rights?
Under the standards of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, Fair Trade requires compliance with domestic and international labor law, including the prohibition of child and forced labor and child trafficking.
What is the impact of Fair Trade on the environment?
Fair Trade certification systems include stringent and wide-ranging environmental protections.
Fair Trade plays an important role in protecting forests, with ripple effects in preventing global climate change and preserving biodiversity.  Fair Trade coffee and cocoa under the Fair Trade USA/Fairtrade Labeling Organization system is grown by small farmers, who primarily grow these products the natural way, under the shade of a forest canopy.  Fair Trade prices make it financially viable for farmers to preserve forests rather than cutting them down or selling their land to big plantations that may clear-cut the forests.
Are Fair Trade products organic?
Fair Trade products are often organic, but not always.  A Fair Trade product that is also organic will carry the organic label.  Fair Trade also restricts the chemicals that can be used.
Are environmental certifications, such as organic, also Fair Trade?
Not unless the product also has a Fair Trade logo or the business is a member of the Fair Trade Federation.
Only Fair Trade certification offers minimum prices for farmers.
Can mainstream products receive Fair Trade certification?  For example, could there be Fair Trade Hershey bars?
After years of pressure from Global Exchange and other advocacy groups, a number of brands are starting to make the switch to Fair Trade, demonstrating that this approach works for mainstream brands.  Brands that carry the Fair Trade logo or are in the process of achieving Fair Trade certification include Ben & Jerry’s for all its products worldwide; Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bars in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand; Nestle 4-finger Kit Kat bars in the UK, and Green & Blacks for all their cocoa products worldwide.
Do you have a Reality Tour where I can see first hand the impact of Fair Trade policies?
Global Exchange provides numerous Reality Tours, through which you can experience Fair Trade and visit cooperatives around the world.  Some tours give participants the opportunity to travel and visit locations throughout a specific country, and others enable participants to spend ten days living with Fair Trade farmers and helping to bring in the harvest.  Visit http://www.globalexchange.org/tours/byIssue.html#6 to learn more about these trips.
Are Fair Trade products more expensive that non-Fair Trade products?
Often, there is little or no difference between Fair Trade products and non-Fair Trade products.  Non-Fair Trade products are often traded by a long string of middlemen between the producer and the retailer, increasing the price of those items.  Fair Trade tends to be based on direct trade relationships, so that more of the price of the item goes directly to the Fair Trade producer.
Where can I buy Fair Trade?
Which chocolate companies produce Fair Trade chocolate?
The 100% Fair Trade chocolate companies that take a leadership role by partnering with Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Campaign and stores on Reverse Trick-or-Treating and other programs:
  • Alter Eco
  • Coco-Zen
  • Divine
  • Equal Exchange
  • Sweet Earth
  • Theo
I would like to know more specific details about Fair Trade certification, or how to become a Fair Trade business.
Please visit the following websites:
  • Fair Trade Federation
  • Fair Trade USA
  • Fair Trade Labeling Organization
  • Institute for Marketecology (IMO)
General information child labor in the cocoa fields
I understand that Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Campaign is one of the leading organizations campaigning to end child labor, forced labor, and child trafficking in the chocolate industry.  What is the relationship between this issue and Fair Trade?
Under the standards of the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, Fair Trade strictly prohibits child and forced labor and trafficking.
In which countries is child and forced labor and trafficking a problem?
The main child labor problem is in Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s two leading producers of cocoa.  Children who are trafficked into the cocoa fields come largely from neighboring countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso.
What is the Harkin-Engel Protocol, and what is its status?
Following a public outcry in 2001, when media reports first revealed child and forced labor and child trafficking in the cocoa fields, Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eliot Engel introduced legislation that would have legally required a slave-free label on all products containing cocoa that were produced without forced labor.  The legislation passed in a landslide 291-115 victory in the House of Representatives.
On September 19, 2001, before the Senate acted on the legislation, Harkin and Engel signed an agreement with major cocoa industry companies became known as the Harkin-Engel Protocol.  In the Protocol, the companies commit to voluntarily eliminate the worst forms of child labor from the cocoa fields by July, 2005.  The companies failed to meet this deadline and subsequent deadlines they set, and child and forced labor and child trafficking continues to this day in the cocoa fields.
What is Global Exchange’s position on the Harkin-Engel Protocol?
Global Exchange was not a signatory to the Protocol.  We did not believe that a voluntary protocol would be effective.  Click the links below for some of Global Exchange’s critiques of the Protocol:
What is Global Exchange’s position on the steps necessary to end child and forced labor and trafficking in the cocoa industry?
Global Exchange’s position is that eliminating child labor, forced labor, and trafficking in the cocoa industry requires both (1) a system for monitoring and eliminating these practices and (2) stable minimum prices that exceed the cost of production.  Fair Trade Certification under the Fairtrade Labeling Organization standards satisfies both of these requirements.
How can I learn more about child labor in the cocoa industry?
How to get involved in Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Campaign
How do I receive updates about Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Campaign Activities?
What is Global Exchange’s Sweet Smarts?
Sweet Smarts is a national network of individuals, from youth to senior citizens, who educated and advocate for Fair Trade in their communities.  Visit our Sweet Smarts page to learn more and start your own group.
What actions can I take throughout the year?
By joining the Fair Trade National listserv, we’ll keep you updated on actions you can take throughout the year.
Visit our Take Action page. Here are some of our most popular actions:
Where can I find resources (flyers, videos clips, etc) for a Fair Trade event I am organizing?
You can find resources throughout the Fair Trade Campaign webpages.  Here are a couple of examples:
I am a college student and I would like my school to transition into only selling Fair Trade coffee and chocolate.  What should I do?
  1. Contact Fair Trade Colleges and Universities, which provides support and resources to help with your campaign. 
  2. Sign up on Global Exchange’s Fair Trade listserv to stay informed of more ways to get involved.
I am an individual or student researcher and I have more questions that are not addressed on this list.  What should I do?
Please read all of Global Exchange’s Fair Trade webpages.  The Global Exchange has a very small staff and does not have the capacity to answer individual inquiries, but we can assure you that you will find the answers to virtually all of your questions on our website.
I am a reporter for a professional news organization, and I am writing a story on Fair Trade or the cocoa or coffee industry..
Please click here to visit our Media Center for press contact information.

Also, see our Coffee FAQ section.


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