Intro to Fair Trade

What does “fair” mean?

The meaning of the word “fair” can vary widely depending on who you ask. A generally accepted definitions is includes the understanding of reciprocal benefits and mutual respect for all parties in consideration. When it comes to Fair Trade, this means prices paid to producers in accordance with the work they do; that workers have the right to organize; that workers have access to health, safety, and wage support; and that products are environmentally sustainable and conserve natural resources.

What Fair Trade products are available?
In North America, there are many Fair Trade products on the market. The most common types of products include: jewelry, clothing, toys, coffee, tea, and chocolate, bananas, oranges, avocados, wine, olive oil, sugar, flowers, body care items, spices, rice, sports balls, and more.

How do I know that a product is Fair Trade?
Some Fair Trade products, like coffee and chocolate, are third-party certified Fair Trade and carry a label or “seal.”  Some brands are Fair Trade Organizations, while others may practice Fair Trade with only a small share of their products. Non-certified products, that are still Fair Trade, are sold by Fair Trade Organizations, businesses approved by a third-party as fully committed to Fair Trade.

Consumers in search of Fair Trade products have a vast array of products to choose from. Product labels, such as “Fair Trade Certified”, “Fair for Life”, and “Fair Trade” as well as membership in associations like Fair Trade Federation and World Fair Trade Organization, help identify Fair Trade products that are produced according to Fair Trade standards.

Do Fair Trade goods cost more than comparable non-Fair Trade goods?
Generally, fairly traded goods cost the same or more than similar goods. Fair Trade crafts don’t cost more than other goods because the large percentage taken by middle people is removed from the equation. The cost remains the same as traditionally traded goods; however, more of the sale price goes to producers.

In the case of agricultural goods, is the quality comparable to commercial products?
In some cases the quality of the goods is higher because Fair Traders factor in the environmental cost of production. For instance, in the case of coffee, fairly traded coffee is often organic and shade grown, which results in a higher quality coffee.

What is a fair wage?
Producers receive a fair wage when they are paid fairly for their products. This means that workers are paid at least that country’s minimum wage. Since the minimum wage is often not enough for basic survival, whenever feasible, workers are paid a higher wage approaching a living wage, which enables them to cover basic needs, including food, shelter, education and health care for their families. Paying fair wages does not necessarily mean that products cost the consumer more. Fair Trade Organizations bypass exploitative middlemen and work directly with producers.

How much money (percent of sale price) do the artisans make?

The amount of money or percentage of sale price artisans make varies depending on the product, region, and skill level. Artisans make more money through Fair Trade then in regular markets.