Board's Eye View

Celebrate World Fair Trade Day

Posted on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 @ 12:45 PM

Sue KWhat a difference a year makes. And what a difference your support of fair trade makes! We have much to celebrate, and also much to ponder, as we grow the fair trade movement this year.

The good news is: the sales of fair trade products, along with those of other ethical initiatives, continue to grow very well despite our sluggish economy. More products, including multi-ingredient products, are coming to market, and large corporations are paying attention to this trend. This is a wonderful time for the consumer: our sphere of impact will widen exponentially!

Domestic Fair Trade (DFT) initiatives in North America and Europe are expanding as the concept gains relevance and acceptance. Italy has taken the lead in the production of DFT goods by offering a wide array of fair trade and organic cooperative-manufactured products under the label Solidale Italiano. Switzerland, France, Germany and the UK offer DFT initiatives, many of which include local, and in Germany, also include dairy products!

Today DFT certification is available in the US as well. The North Carolina-based Agricultural Justice Project has developed a set of standards for North America and has accredited several certifiers, such as our very own Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA), to validate farmers and other organizations.

The US-based Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) continues to grow in both membership and impact. This year the four-year old organization will launch a product evaluation service to examine products, and the producers and organizations that make and market them, for fair trade ingredient content along with organizational commitment and practices. The association is composed of producers, manufacturers, farmer and farm-worker organizations (and other food chain workers), NGO’s and retailers.

Of course, with growth and success come changes and challenges.

One such challenging change is the announcement that Fair Trade USA (FTUSA), formerly Transfair USA, resigned its 14 year membership and marketing/certifying relationship with Fairtrade International (FLO).  The announcement surprised FTUSA franchisees which were forced to choose which organization they would continue to work with: FLO or FTUSA.

FTUSA’s controversial shift was designed to “innovate the Fair Trade model” and “double US sales in for producers by 2015” at least partially through “investing in cooperatives”. FTUSA can realize such an ambitious goal by certifying farm (and other) workers; essentially creating an opportunity to include coffee plantations and other labor-based business models in the scope of fair trade. While growing the producer and labor base is important, these so-called fair-trade-certified coffee plantations will directly compete with the small producers that ‘fair trade’ was designed to protect. You can read more about their initiative on their website:

FLO will continue to work with 25 other countries on their major labeling initiatives, including Fairtrade Canada, and hopes to maintain several of their franchisees.

FTUSA’s new position has generated concern about the direction fair trade is taking. Here in North America, fair trade organizations – co-ops, manufacturers, retailers, NGO’s and more – will meet to discuss the future of fair trade in the North American market. Representatives of both commodity and craft organizations from around the world will also attend and participate in the discussion.

The Fair Trade movement is experiencing growing pains. On the one hand, the interest in ethical and environmental consumer concerns is inspiring and important in changing trade. On the other hand, rapid growth attracts organizations that see fair trade merely as a marketing tool. Ethical consumers must continue to educate themselves to fundamentally support producers. Remember: we are a powerful force in shaping the future of fair trade!

And now it’s time for us to celebrate our co-creation of a fair world!

For a guide to fair trade principals; and fair trade news, stories and interesting perspectives, check out the latest issue of For a Better World publication located in the foyer of the store, or visit

Tags: Board of Directors, Fair Trade, Food, Farm, Produce, Plants & Seeds