What Makes Something Fair Trade?

It's more than a trend. Here are the methods of the movement.

By now you’re familiar with the concept and the benefits of buying fair trade. With a bit of conscientious consumerism, it’s fairly easy to ensure your purchases support the people and places that need it most and sustain eco-friendly companies. But certifying fair trade products isn’t as simple as slapping on a label. To maintain the integrity of the fair trade market, each of its more than 1.2 million producers and workers are subject to a strict inspection
and certification process.

Depending on the type of business and whether products are being manufactured or sold, different principles and processes apply—and they usually involve a lengthy, specific list. However, some general guidelines do blanket most of the industry. Trade companies must sign contracts with producers to foster long-term relationships, pay a Fairtrade minimum price (the cost of sustainable production) and pay an addi- tional Fairtrade premium (to invest in development). Producer standards vary based on whether employees are contract workers, hired labor or small-scale producers, but all have rights to democratic, equitable treatment.

The big brother of the fair trade industry is FLO-CERT. Their certifiers determine standards and confirm a company’s compliance through on-site audits. A committee then approves or denies a company’s request for certification. Annual reviews and random inspections also preserve the consistency of the fair trade name. Stateside, organizations like TransFair USA work with FLO-CERT to monitor the import, pro- duction and sale of American fair trade. So, go ahead, this time it’s OK to flaunt that label. It’s earned.

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