Resource Library

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

  • Are Fair Trade Certified products also certified organic?
  • Are Fair Trade Certified products also non-GMO (not genetically modified)?
  • Do Fair Trade Certified products cost more than conventional products?
  • Does Fair Trade USA certify crafts?
  • How does Fair Trade USA feel about large-volume retailers like WalMart and McDonald’s carrying Fair Trade Certified products?
  • What is Fair Trade USA and what does it do?
  • What is Fair Trade?
  • What is the difference between free trade and fair trade?
  • Which products are Fair Trade Certified™ in the U.S.?

Question:

Are Fair Trade Certified products also certified organic?

Answer:

Not necessarily, Fair Trade does promote organic farming with training for farmers and by offering a higher price for organic products. Many producers invest their Fair Trade premium funds in organic certification, which has led to outstanding results: nearly half of all Fair Trade Certified imports were also organic.

We believe that in order to improve living and working conditions for farmers and workers that their environment must also be clean and healthy.

Environmental standards are therefore integral to the Fair Trade criteria. These include:

  • Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
  • Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
  • Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
  • Banning use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy

Question:

Are Fair Trade Certified products also non-GMO (not genetically modified)?

Answer:

Yes. Fair Trade USA understands the importance of strict environmental standards. Ours include:

  • Banning use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
  • Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
  • Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
  • Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
  • Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy

Question:

Do Fair Trade Certified products cost more than conventional products?

Answer:

Not necessarily. Fair Trade Certified coffees and chocolates are generally priced competitively with other gourmet, specialty coffees and chocolates. They are, though, more expensive than mass-produced, low-quality coffees and chocolates. Fair Trade Certified bananas, on the other hand, can cost much more than conventional bananas because small cooperatives lack the extensive shipping and logistical capabilities of vertically-integrated, multi-national fruit companies and incur higher costs to transport their products to market.

Question:

Does Fair Trade USA certify crafts?

Answer:

Fair Trade USA does not certify “crafts” such as hand-made jewelry, pottery and artwork.  Originally, the Fair Trade certification model was designed for commodity, agricultural products. However, as we’ve evolved and expanded our model over the years to cover workers, not just farmers, we’ve also started to apply Fair Trade standards to protect workers who hand-stitch sports balls and, most recently, factory workers who sew apparel.

If you’re looking for craft items, there are importers and retailers that do adhere to general Fair Trade principals:

  • World of Good - offers ethically-sourced gifts, house wares and accessories.
  • A Greater Gift - a program of SERRV International, one of the first alternative trade organizations in the world and a founding member of the

World Fair Trade Organization.

  • Bead for Life - Ugandan women craft beads out of colorful recycled paper, "eradicating poverty one bead at a time."
  • Fair Trade Federation - a membership association of retailers and importers committed to fair trade principles.
  • Global Exchange Online Store - shop online with Global Exchange to know the products you buy are sweatshop free.
  • Mercado Global - a non-profit fair trade organization that links rural and economically-disadvantaged cooperatives to the U.S. market.
  • Pachamama, World of Artisans - Pachamama works to increase consumer awareness, build equitable producer relationships and bring fair trade products to the public.
  • Ten Thousand Villages - one of the world's oldest and largest fair trade organizations, offering jewelry, home décor and gifts.

Question:

How does Fair Trade USA feel about large-volume retailers like WalMart and McDonald’s carrying Fair Trade Certified products?

Answer:

The expansion of Fair Trade Certified products into thousands of retail outlets across the U.S. means Fair Trade USA is extending the benefits of Fair Trade to a growing number of farming families around the world. And giving Americans the opportunity to purchase Fair Trade products wherever they choose to shop makes it possible for a broader range of consumers to be part of the Fair Trade solution. That's why Fair Trade USA  is working to make Fair Trade Certified products available everywhere; at large retailers and national chains as well as small independent stores and cooperatives.

Fair Trade USA understands that consumer confidence in the Fair Trade Certified label is of utmost importance to our model. That's why we never lower our product certification standards for any company, regardless of their size or commitment to Fair Trade. The Fair Trade Certified label on a product package is the consumer's guarantee that the product has met strict social, economic and environmental standards. The same international Fair Trade standards apply to all participating companies and retailers, regardless of their size or business model.

It is important to remember that the Fair Trade Certification model cannot and does not attempt to monitor a company's broader business practices or motives for involvement in Fair Trade. In other words, Fair Trade USA certifies products, not companies.

Fair Trade USA strongly supports "conscious consumerism": we encourage people to educate themselves about the companies from which they buy, the origins of the products they consume, and the business practices of the stores where they shop.

Question:

What is Fair Trade USA and what does it do?

Answer:

Fair Trade USA is a non-profit organization that certifies and promotes Fair Trade products in the United States. The leading third-party certifier, we work with more than 800 U.S. companies to audit and certify that the products they offer comply with international Fair Trade standards. Certified products carry the Fair Trade Certified label, which helps consumers to purchase their way to a better world, simply by looking for the label on the products they buy.

Our mission is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth. We achieve our mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products.

Question:

What is Fair Trade?

Answer:

Fair Trade is a global trade model and certification allows shoppers to quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner.
For consumers, Fair Trade offers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping. For farmers and workers in developing countries, Fair Trade offers better prices, improved terms of trade, and the business skills necessary to produce high-quality products that can compete in the global marketplace. Through vibrant trade, farmers and workers can improve their lives and plan for their futures. Today, Fair Trade benefits more than 1.2 million farming families in 70 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Globally, the Fair Trade network certifies coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, beans and grains, flowers, nuts, oils and butters, honey and spices, wine and apparel, and certified ingredients are now used in ready-to-drink beverages, body care products and spirits. In the United States, Fair Trade Certified™ products are available in more than 50,000 retail locations.

Fair Trade principles include:

  • Fair prices and credit: Democratically organized farming groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price (or the market price if it’s higher) and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farming organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.
  • Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions and sustainable wages. Forced child and slave labor are strictly prohibited.
  • Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible to eliminate unnecessary middlemen and empower farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
  • Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade premiums, which are funds for community development.
  • Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarships, schools, quality improvement and leadership training, and organic certification.
  • Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

Question:

What is the difference between free trade and fair trade?

Answer:

According to Fair Trade USA’s founder, President and CEO Paul Rice, “Fair Trade makes free trade work for the world’s poor.”

Free trade is the economic theory that the market should be allowed to flow without government intervention. Purists want to get rid of all trade tariffs, subsidies, and protectionist economic policies. However, it is these very regulations which stop commodity prices from fluctuating uncontrollably. This laissez-faire theory aims to reach market equilibrium - where supply meets each demand. What free trade supporters fail to consider is the fact that, sometimes, the means to get that supply is not all that fair.

Historically, free trade has left small-scale producers behind as large subsidized companies start to take over their industries. While large contracted farms can afford to sell commodities at lower prices, local farmers, who have traditionally supplied these products, are driven into debt. The only way these farmers can compete with subsidized farms is to lower their product prices to the point where labor is free and quality of life is unsustainable.

In the case of coffee growers, these producers lack information on the real market value of their commodity, which easily makes them victims to unfair market deals that take advantage of their inexperience. Additionally, these farmers often lack access to credit and are forced to take quick cash from buyers who offer to pay a fraction of what their crop is worth.

Fair Trade helps level the playing field by equipping the farmers with tools—information and training—they need to receive fair prices for their products. The Fair Trade system aims to provide greater market access to farmers, which gives them a larger say in how much their product is worth.We say that Fair Trade is “market-based” because it relies on socially-conscious consumers support the movement by purchasing Fair Trade products. Through their conscious purchases, consumers tell companies that they care about the farmers and workers who produce their products. Fair Trade aims to address the underlying inequities caused by poverty and lack of access to market information that free trade ignores.

Question:

Which products are Fair Trade Certified™ in the U.S.?

Answer:

Fair Trade USA certifies coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa, fresh fruit and vegetables, sugar, beans and grains, flowers, nuts, oils and butters, honey and spices, wine and apparel, and certified ingredients are now used in ready-to-drink beverages, body care products and spirits. Additionally, we’re exploring certification in gold and precious metals, seafood and diamonds.