What Does Fair Trade Mean?

May 6, 2020

The fair-trade movement has been around for decades, and has grown into a global alliance of activists, brands, farmers, and consumers who strive to support ethical supply chains and environmental stewardship. On ThriveMarket.com, we’re proud to offer a range of Fair Trade Certified products—everything from tea to coconut oil—so it’s easy for members to shop mindfully. Let’s dive in and explore even more about what it means to shop for fair trade products.

What Is Fair Trade?

According to Anna Canning, head of communications for the Fair World Project, fair trade is defined as a “movement across supply chains—from producers to consumers—that envisions a world where people on the planet matter as much as profits.” That means when you see a fair trade label, the product uses ingredients and materials that meet certain requirements for fair trade certification, such as using no forced labor, or ensuring a minimum price guarantee for farmers.

What Is a Fair Trade Organization?

To qualify for fair-trade status, brands can choose to apply for certification from a variety of global organizations. In the absence of a single standard, it can be confusing to know which certifications are the most rigorous and transparent. In short: no label is perfect. Some organizations lack enforcement measures, leave suppliers out of governance decisions, or have been called out for ignoring human rights or environmental violations. Despite these shortcomings, the organizations are still working towards a more sustainable future for all.

Fair For Life

Fair For Life has strong environmental standards including organic (or equivalent) growing methods, long-term commitments from buyers, and traceable ingredients. This label is popular with small-scale producers.

The Fairtrade System

Producers who participate in The Fairtrade System play a role in the organization’s governance and decision making. For example, producer groups help set global minimum prices for fair-trade products. The program’s current five-year strategy was developed based on the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris.

Naturaland Fair

Owned by its farmer members, Naturaland Fair excludes any brand with human rights or environmental violations. In addition, this certification requires environmental standards that go beyond organic—it requires a higher threshold of certified ingredients.

Small Producers’ Symbol (SPS)

SPS is the only fair-trade label developed for and by small-scale producers in the Global South, and specifically excludes large farms from participating. The label is known for being more generic and less rigorous on categories like environmental requirements or labor than other certification bodies.

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA is a third-party certification seal that represents thousands of products that work to protect social and environmental standards in 45 countries. Although this organization has received fair-trade practice complaints in the past, action was quickly taken remedy the situation.

World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO)

The WFTO is a global membership for producers, retailers, wholesalers, and brands that are committed to fair trade. Membership is limited to organizations that follow a 100 percent fair trade commitment and apply WFTO’s 10 Principles of Fair Trade. It is the only fair trade membership requiring third-party auditing of supply chains.

Benefits of Fair Trade

Equal Exchange Fair TradePhotos courtesy of Dr. Bronner’s and Equal Exchange

Fair-trade policies mean higher standards throughout the industry. Here are some of the additional reasons why fair trade is beneficial.

  • Income stability: Earnings help farmers, fishermen, and workers fulfill basic needs, no matter what happens with market prices.
  • Empowerment: Regardless of country, gender, or position in society, fair-trade standards help give farmers a voice in workplaces and communities.
  • Community support: Clean water, education, and healthcare are just some of the areas in which communities are able to invest when fair trade opportunities are available.
  • Environmental stewardship: Fair trade standards always include environmental protections like eliminating potentially harmful chemicals and pesticides, and taking steps to protecting natural resources like oceans and rivers.

Fair Trade Brands

There are numerous benefits of buying fair-trade products. Here’s a look at some of the many brands we offer.

Dr. Bronner’s

Dr. Bronners got its start back in 1858, and has grown into a globally recognized fair-trade brand that sources organic ingredients you can feel good about putting on your skin and using in your home. One of its most recent initiatives is the mint project, which includes working with family farms in India to implement regenerative agriculture practices that help transform their communities.

Organic Peppermint Castile Liquid Soap

Known for having 18 unique uses (including floor cleaner or body wash), this effective and versatile soap is free from harsh chemicals, dyes, and additives.

“I use this in my face scrubs and love the pick-me-up scent of peppermint.”
—Cynthia, Florida

Regenerative Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Paleo, keto-friendly, and Fair Trade Certified, this nourishing oil is free of additives and sourced from Sri Lanka’s Coconut Triangle.

“I can’t even count the number of ways I use this in the house and it still seems to stay full!”
—Kimberly, New York

Andalou Naturals

Andalou Naturals has been developing fair trade personal care products for the past 30 years, and was one of the first beauty brands to become Non-GMO Project Verified. The brand sources sustainable ingredients and advocates for eliminating pesticides, plus it gives back to the community by investing in women’s equality, education, and empowerment.

Kukui Cocoa Nourishing Body Butter

Your skin will love this rich blend of Hawaiian kukui flower, shea butter, and cocoa. Use the body butter all over for instant hydration.

“Great smell and the texture doesn’t leave my skin greasy.”
—Callie, Colorado

1,000 Roses Soothing Shower Gel

Everything’s coming up roses, especially in the shower. This gel cleanser combines coconut water, rosewater, and aloe vera for an ultra-hydrating formula.

“I buy this regularly to give as gifts!”
—Beverly, Idaho

Traditional Medicinals

Guided by the ancient wisdom of “connecting people with the power of plants,” Traditional Medicinals has been elevating afternoon tea since 1974. No matter which variety you choose, each tea meets rigorous standards for quality and sustainability.

Roasted Dandelion Root Tea

To ease stomach discomfort, try sipping this naturally cleansing dandelion root tea. The citrus and mint flavor adds extra comfort.

“I love dandelion root tea, and this is my favorite brand. It’s a good substitute for coffee too.”
—Bonnie, Illinois

Organic Chamomile With Lavender

This soothing tea is ideal for your evening routine. Wind down while sipping a relaxing chamomile brew infused with fragrant lavender.

“Love this before bed or after a long stressful day at work.”
—Courtney, Indiana

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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