Today, we are more aware than ever of ecolabels – those little symbols on food packaging that signify something “good” about that product. With so many logos, marks, seals and stamps out there, it can be confusing for a shopper to choose what is best.
At Fairtrade America, we aim to make it simple for shoppers to live out their values. By looking for our Mark and choosing certified goods, you’re standing up for the human rights and dignity of farmers and workers around the world.
Who or what benefits from Fairtrade certification?
The short answer is farmers, their communities and the planet.
Fairtrade exists to shift the balance of power in business toward farmers and workers disadvantaged by unfair global trade structures. And while there are many complicated factors contributing to this, one issue is that many companies in countries such as the USA and Canada have so much buying power that they can drive down the price of goods like coffee, sugar and cocoa to unsustainable levels. Smallholder farmers in Latin America, Africa and Asia Pacific (who often live in remote, isolated regions) depend on income that is vulnerable to volatile global markets.
Through a set of rigorous supply chain standards, farmer support networks and programs, and research and advocacy, Fairtrade redirects money, agency and benefits to farmers and workers. Our tools for achieving social and environmental justice include:
Everyone knows going it alone is much harder than working with your neighbors. Fairtrade farmers and workers must organize together, usually in the form of a cooperative, to share the load and the benefits. “Producer Organizations,” as they are termed, do everything from distributing income to providing training to their members on how to go organic. Strength in numbers, as we like to think!
The Fairtrade Minimum Price
This is a floor price that is only triggered when the market price dips below unsustainable levels. By having a Minimum Price, farmers know that their crops will not be sold for less than they cost to produce.
The Fairtrade Premium
This is an extra sum paid to farmers on top of the price for their crops. The Fairtrade Premiums earned go to Producer Organizations which democratically decide how to use them for their particular community’s needs. Farmers and workers choose to spend their Fairtrade Premium on anything from purchasing new farming equipment to building wells for fresh water to paying for school fees for local children. This is true democracy in action! In fact, many cooperatives find that women have an increased voice in the community since they get to vote on how this money is spent.
Rigorous Supply Chain Standards
Fairtrade has set a high bar, and we’re often considered the gold standard in the sustainability world. Our global standards address the three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social justice. In addition to dictating fairer terms of trade, Fairtrade standards also ban the use of GMO seeds as well as certain pesticides that are known to harm people and planet, for example. And Fairtrade funds farmer-led projects that address pressing social issues like gender inequality and support the journey to living incomes and wages across supply chains.
What impact has Fairtrade made so far?
Fairtrade’s vision is a world where all farmers have access to secure and sustainable livelihoods and can fulfill their potential and decide their futures. Our programs are structured to support farmers and workers in developing their farms, communities and own expertise to achieve that vision. Through Fairtrade partnership, farmers around the globe, like the farmers that produce the cocoa for Nature’s Path products, have been able to invest in projects to educate and empower women entrepreneurs, adapt their farming techniques to be more sustainable and climate friendly, enroll in business and organizational management courses and much more!
In 2020, Fairtrade farmers and workers received $218 million in Premiums funds thanks to global sales of Fairtrade products, $11 million from US sales alone. And thanks in part to Fairtrade pricing structures and work to reach living incomes, farmer incomes are increasing, particularly in cocoa.
What can I do?
The problems in the global trade system are complex and intimidating, but we all can help create change by making the best choices possible in our own lives! Keep checking for labels on the products you choose to make sure that they meet your values. Buy local, organic and Fairtrade where you can. You can also ask your grocery store to stock certified products, and check out our Product Finder to see where you can get certified products for just about every area of life.
Finally, keep learning about ways to live your values through your purchases by signing up to our newsletter and following us on Instagram.