Fair Trade is really about making changes to conventional trade, which frequently fails to deliver on promises of sustainable livelihoods and opportunities for people in the poorest countries in the world.
Poverty and hardship limit people’s choices while market forces tend to further marginalise and exclude them. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation, whether as farmers and artisans, or as hired workers within larger businesses.
That two billion of our fellow citizens survive on less than $2 per day, despite working extremely hard, suggests that there is indeed a problem.
Fair Trade seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy - to ensure the farmers and artisans behind those products get a better deal. Most often this is understood to mean ensuring better prices for producers, but it often also includes longer-term and more meaningful trading relationships.
Fair Trade Certification
After nearly fifty years of different approaches to Fair Trade, an international system of Fair Trade certification and labelling began to emerge in the late 1980s.
It was an opportune time to establish a set of standards and labelling as there was both growing consumer and commercial interest in Fair Trade products. Consumers wanted a guarantee that their purchases were truly benefiting producers and workers, and businesses selling Fair Trade products were eager for a system that engendered consumer trust.
Standards were developed to clearly define the obligations for producers and businesses who buy from them in order for a product to be called Fair Trade Certified, and a rigorous third-party monitoring system was implemented to ensure standards were being met.
Finally, a label was created that would appear on products that had been independently Fair Trade Certified. Different labels have been used around the world over the years, and the two most often found in Canada today are those found throughout this website in the top left corner.