Strengthening Fair Trade in North America Reigniting the Movement

May 7, 2012


Fair World Project & Domestic Fair Trade Association Report Back on The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit


Note: This summary represents the perspective of the Domestic Fair Trade Association and Fair World Project.


The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit brought together almost fifty diverse stakeholders to explore how to strengthen the fair trade movement in North America. Attendees represented small farmers in Latin America, farmers in the US and Canada, farmworkers in the US, US- and Canada-based food, craft, and retail businesses committed to the principles of fair trade, and NGOs involved in the fair trade movement.  On the third and final day, the group was joined by representatives of Agricultural Justice Project, Institute for Marketecology, Fairtrade Canada, and Fair Trade USA to address how certification, standards, and labels can and should play a role in the fair trade movement.


After three days of work, a firm foundation was laid for a stronger, more coordinated movement and a commitment was made to continue this important work together.


Positive outcomes of this meeting included:

  • Reclaiming the understanding that certification is a tool of fair trade and that tool must serve this movement.
  • Initiating a process for holding standard-setters, certifiers, and labelers accountable to a high bar set by the stakeholders of the movement.
  • Establishing relationships of trust and a commitment to collaborate among stakeholders who had never before worked together.
  • Committing to work collaboratively to transform the policy and corporate structures that marginalize producers and workers worldwide.


Four working groups formed in the months leading up to the summit to address four key areas:

  • Vision and the future of fair trade
  • Accountability within the movement
  • The architecture of the movement
  • Messaging and education around


It quickly became apparent that there were key issues that needed attention that crossed the boundaries of those working groups, notably large-scale agriculture and domestic fair trade. For both issues, some clarity was achieved, though work remains to be done.

  • Large-large and corporate agriculture: We reaffirmed that worker voices throughout the supply chain need to be heard in addition to small farmers/artisans and that space in the movement must be created for them. How large-scale agriculture fits into certification programs needs to be worked out, with options including:
    • Certification/labeling is not an adequate tool for large-scale agriculture and other mechanisms need to be developed to ensure fair and safe working conditions.
    • Certification/labeling is an adequate tool and can be run in parallel to traditional fair trade programs, but products from large-scale agriculture need to be labeled distinctly in the marketplace.
    • Certification/labeling is an adequate tool, but additional requirements such as worker access to land for subsistence crops, relationships with local workers’ groups, and working for land reform must be implemented.
  • Domestic fair trade: Attendees agreed that the domestic and international fair trade movements should collaborate more closely to identify where commonalities are, understand differing points of view, and ultimately to help each other push our movements forward.  Key next steps include:
    • Bridge domestic fair trade movements worldwide
    • Collaborating on a term that may be used to distinguish domestic fair trade in the marketplace
    • Coordinating on accountability issues in a way that sets a high bar and supports those we collectively seek to help.


Though monumental progress was made at this initial meeting, there is still work to be done to further define and strengthen this movement and bring about transformation in agriculture and trade. Next steps include:

  • A new group of volunteers has stepped up to be an ad hoc organizing committee proposing outcomes, goals, and a work plan for the next six months to a year. A proposal is expected by July 1st.
  • A paper produced by the Accountability group outlining key issues will receive priority attention in the plan for the next six months as a basis for setting minimum expectations for any organization involved in standard-setting and labeling for the fair trade movement.
  • Fair World Project has volunteered to create a series of follow up questions for those standard-setters and labelers who joined the Summit to ensure accountability and transparency going forward.


Fair trade in North America is at a critical crossroads. The North America Fair Trade Stakeholder Council Summit represents a crucial step in reigniting a diverse movement of farmers, workers, Alternative Trade Organizations, and advocates to build a just economy based upon the values of fair trade. Fair World Project and the Domestic Fair Trade Association are committed supporting and strengthening this movement going forward.


For more information on next steps, please contact:

Dana Geffner, Fair World Project [email protected]

Kerstin Lindgren, Domestic Fair Trade Association [email protected]

Ryan Zinn, Fair World Project [email protected]




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