Fair trade certifications compared

Fairness for Farmers: A Report Assessing the Fair Trade Movement and the Role of Certification, breaks down what each of the most common fair trade certification labels stands for. New Report: Fairness for Farmers - Assessing Fair Trade and the Role of Certification

The report finds major, fundamental differences in the standards of the six fair trade product labels intended to benefit small-scale farmers. Certifications compared are Fair for Life, Fair Trade USA, the Fair Trade System, Naturland Fair, Small Producer Symbol, and the World Fair Trade Organization.

These differences include:

  • Requirements for democratic structures (including cooperatives and other farmer-led associations)
  • Prioritization of most marginalized producers
  • Policies to prevent “fairwashing,” such as use of the label by companies with active human rights abuses
  • Involvement of intended beneficiaries (small-scale farmers) in defining what constitutes “fair” and setting minimum prices
  • Definition of fair prices and premiums paid

What does fair trade mean?

Originally a solidarity movement to empower small-scale farmers in the Global South, the fair trade movement has grown across the globe and in the marketplace.  This report examines product certifications through the lens of the original guiding fair trade principles and the vision of a movement to address power imbalances and transform trade. How do the current fair trade certification labels live up to that transformative vision? This report concludes that not all fair trade labels are created equal.

An accompanying infographic introduces fair trade to a general audience, along with facts and action tips to support small-scale farmers and the fair trade movement.  Click Here to View Graphic

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For more on certifications intended to benefit farmworkers and an evaluation of fair trade hired label standards, see our report Justice in the Fields.