What is Fair Trade?

Defined simply, fair trade is when producers in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work by companies in developed countries.


However, this definition does not do fair trade justice, nor does it accurately describe the ethics and values behind the movement. Fair trade means something different to all parties, from the workers to consumers. 


What is the purpose of fair trade?


The purpose of fair trade can be summed up as ensuring better prices, ethical working conditions and improved pay on a global scale. This benefits the quality of life for workers as well as improving the quality of consumer products, which are more sustainable and ethically sourced. 


Fair trade helps disadvantaged farmers connect with customers who they would not otherwise have access to. And it’s not just farmers who reap the benefits of this. A common misconception is that fair trade products only include food and drink, when in fact they can include clothing, jewellery, cosmetics and homeware. Fair trade not only assists struggling farmers, but also artisans who are finding it hard to make ends meet. 


Fair trade sets the ethical, environmental and social standards for companies and their products and makes sure that these are upheld throughout the process of production and sales. 


Where was fair trade first introduced?


The first official fair trade shop opened in 1958 in the United States. In Europe, Oxfam led the charge by selling crafts made by Chinese refugees in the late 1950s. This culminated in them setting up the first fair trade organisation in 1964. This spread all across the continent, opening up new markets and introducing new concepts such as ‘bio shops’.


The popularity of fair trade grew and more products were sold with a social conscience, making people across the world aware of where their products come from. We began holding consumers accountable for their purchases and educating them on the significance of their choices.



The principles of fair trade


The World Fair Trade Organisation has identified 10 principles which any organisation that markets themselves as fair trade must adhere to in all areas of production and manufacturing. The principles are as follows:


  • Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers

  • The organisation forms and executes a plan with the aim of reducing poverty by supporting small businesses.


  • Transparency and accountability

  • The organisation allows itself to be made accountable to all stakeholders and consumers through frequent and open communication. They must find ways to allow employees and producers to have a greater say in the decision-making process.


  • Fair trading practices

  • The organisation will not exploit the disadvantaged position of small producers, will respect contracts and will always conduct themselves in an ethically-minded fashion.


  • Fair payment

  • The organisation will make payment of a reasonable, consistent and agreed wage to producers, in which they can live and thrive comfortably.


  • No child labour or forced labour

  • The organisation will act in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and will not allow any children to be exploited during production.


  • No discrimination on any basis and the championing of female economic empowerment and freedom of association

  • The organisation will respect and advocate for trade unions and workers rights, as well as not discriminating against anyone due to their gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity or religion. 


  • Good working conditions

  • The organisation will facilitate a safe and healthy working environment for its producers, in compliance with the regulations set by the International Labour Organisation.


  • Providing capacity building

  • The organisation will, to the best of their ability, seek to develop and build upon the skills of their producers, in order to enrich their quality of life and work.


  • Promoting fair trade

  • The organisation will raise awareness of fair trade and make stakeholders aware of its importance and the need for greater justice for disadvantaged producers.


  • Respect for the environment

  • The organisation will make caring for the environment a priority in all of its endeavours. In doing this, they will prompt consumers to make better, more ethical and more environmentally-friendly purchases.


    This will be achieved by maximising the amount of sustainable energy used in production and minimizing the number of fossil fuels used. In addition, the organisation will use more raw materials and minimise waste production and pollution of the surrounding landscape. 


    This is a vital principle as an essential part of the fair trade ethos is an ethical approach to the environment and the world we live in, as well as the people in it.


    What are the global advantages of fair trade?


    • Informs consumers about the origins of their products and allows them to make more ethical, sustainable choices.
    • Enables fair trade organisations to campaign for more ethical trading regulations internationally, making for a more socially and environmentally-conscious global market.
    • There is a more personal shopping experience, where we can all buy products that match our values, allowing us to positively influence others.
    • Struggling producers are supported and given a fair wage for honest work, providing a solution to poverty.
    • Restricts child labour and provides support for women workers.
    • More sustainable production of goods through stable pricing and the introduction of more sustainable ways of working.
    • Widens existing markets and creates new ones through connecting buyers and producers.
    • Allows farmers and artisans to have more autonomy and control over their pricing and marketing of their goods.
    • Assists disadvantaged workers in developing new skills.

    You can browse our range of fair trade products in our shop - we have everything from earrings to ornaments.
    Sam Birtwistle