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Choose to Buy Fairtrade

As consumers, we have the power to create change. By making the right choices about what we buy, we can make our world a better, fairer, and more ethical place. We can remove our support for damaging commerce systems when we choose to buy fairtrade.

As much as possible, we should make purchasing decisions with full appreciation and understanding of the product’s history. We should look at the entire life cycles of each and every product we buy and ask ourselves whether they fit with key ethics, such as caring for our planet and caring for humanity.

When it comes to caring for humanity, we need to consider the impact on people, communities, and individual businesses of the things we buy. We have to ask ourselves whether the items really do represent fairness. Choosing to buy Fairtrade products is one of the steps we can take to care for humanity and promote fairness in business dealings. In this article, we'll explore what Fairtrade really means, and look at what it means to choose Fairtrade products.

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is a global movement that seeks to improve conditions and local sustainability for farmers and workers – especially those in the developing world. Fairtrade seeks to ensure that farmers and workers are all safe, have good working conditions, and are treated fairly.

The global trade network is fraught with injustice. It traditionally discriminates against those with less financial or political clout. So those who have wealth continue to accumulate it, and those with the least suffer the most.

Fairtrade helps combat such injustices by requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (never below market value) for the products produced by those in their supply chains. Farmers and producers in developing nations get fair prices, which allows them to regain some power. They can make their own choices, control their own futures, and live the dignified, safe, secure lives that everyone deserves.

Why Buying Fairtrade a Good Option?

By committing to Fairtrade, companies can help improve the social and economic well-being of workers across the entire production chain. When consumers see this label, they know that the company takes into account working conditions and workers.

We have already developed a series of Fairtrade standards. There are core standards manufacturers need to meet to be Fairtrade certified. These standards include:

  • Ensure producers receive prices that cover their average costs of sustainable production.
  • Provide an additional Fairtrade premium, which they can invest in projects to enhance social, economic and environmental development in their areas.
  • Allow producers to access pre-financing where required.
  • Set clear core criteria and developmental goals to ensure that all Fairtrade-certified products are socially and economically fair and environmentally responsible.
But Fairtrade to support local farmers
Photo by Rajesh Ram on Unsplash.

By choosing Fairtrade products, you are making a statement as a consumer. You are saying that you are looking out for those disadvantaged by the system. You show that you care about people, no matter where they live, and value all human life. And you are helping our world become more just and equal.

What We Need To Look at When Buying Fairtrade Goods

It is important to understand that different standards are applied in assigning the Fairtrade label. There is the trader standard, the climate standard, the textile standard, and the Gold Standard.

However, certain standards are integral to all of the different Fairtrade standards/ certification schemes mentioned above. These are:

Social Development

Small-scale producers adhering to Fairtrade standards must have a suitable organizational structure to bring products to market. Decision-making processes must be democratic. The organization must also be transparent, inclusive, and not discriminate against any particular member or group.

Workers must have social rights and security. There must be training opportunities, non-discriminatory employment practices, absolutely no child labor or forced labor.  Suitable health and safety conditions must be in place to protect the workforce.

Economic Development

To meet Fairtrade standards, buyers must pay a minimum Premium to growers/ producers. This will enable workers to improve the quality of their lives and can also aid in improving the quality of life for others living in a local community. Those who receive the premium can decide how best to spend it.

Buyers must also pre-finance where requested. Access to capital means producers can overcome one of the biggest hurdles in sustainable development – access to funding. Access to capital will not only aid the producers themselves but can also have a huge knock-on effect on the surrounding community.

Environmental Development

Fairtrade standards focus primarily on the social and economic pillars of sustainable development. But they also include requirements for environmentally sound agricultural and business practices. For example, minimized and safe use of agrochemicals, safe and effective waste management, the protection of soil, water, and other resources, and no GMO crops.

Fairtrade standards do not require fully organic production. However, fully organic producers are incentivized by higher Fairtrade minimum prices for organically grown products.

In addition to these common standards, there are also a number of different requirements that producers must meet to reach Fairtrade standards. And for the application of the Fairtrade certification.

Fairtrade Certification and Labelling

When you choose to buy Fairtrade products, the Labels applied to products can serve as a guide. When a product has a fair trade label, you can rest assured that manufacturers have complied with the applied standards.

Fairtrade standards (and Fairtrade labels) are applied to a wide range of products. Most commonly, you will see Fairtrade labels on food and drink products. You can buy a wide range of Fairtrade foods and drinks – from fruits and vegetables to cereals and grains, to tea and coffee – and more. Manufacturers also apply related standards to other items, such as textiles, clothing, and precious metals.

The Fairtrade label does not necessarily mean 'perfect' in sustainable terms. But it does mean that manufacturers and brands have taken significant steps in the right direction.

Looking for labels such as the Fairtrade label when you purchase certain items can help you make the right decisions. It can also somewhat simplify the minefield of trying to find the most sustainable products. It is not often easy to find all the information you need, especially to understand the true social, economic, and environmental impact of the things you choose to buy.

However, labeling that shows conformity to an established set of standards can help you to make the most ethical decisions.

Related Read: Food Expiration Dates: Everything You Need to Know.

Why Fairtrade is Only Part of the Picture

Fairtrade Blueberries
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.

It is important to understand that while choosing Fairtrade products can be a step in the right direction, it is only part of the picture.

The Fairtrade label tells consumers a lot about where their purchases come from. It tells us that buying such products will not have a certain detrimental social or economic impact on the poor and vulnerable in developing nations.

Yes, Fairtrade standards do touch upon environmental issues. However, it is important to understand that even when a producer is Fairtrade certified, they might not necessarily implement best practices regarding the environmental sphere. It is important to understand that Fairtrade labeling has limitations like any labeling or certification scheme. It is not a panacea for all the world's ills.

As mentioned above, Fair Trade standards do reward organic production. But though producers must use them safely (and not put workers at risk), they may well still be using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc., which will harm our environment.

For this reason, it is best to look for Fairtrade labels as well as labels that denote conformance with other sustainability criteria.

For example, you should look for organic certifications, such as Soil Association Organic and Global Organic Standards.


It is important to look for labels and read a little more about the criteria for awarding the certification or label. Some standards are far more established and comprehensive than others. Some (like Fairtrade) focus mainly on people, while others focus on ecosystems and the wider world.

Making sure that you understand the different standards, certifications, and labels you see on foods and other consumer goods can help you make better, more informed decisions about what you buy.

Photo by Megan Thomas on Unsplash
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