Why should we care about the new Fair Trade Charter launch?

With the new Fair Trade Charter launch approaching on September 25th, we wanted to share some background on Fair Trade and why we should care.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.

Fair Trade is based on modes of production and trading that put people and planet before financial profit. Fair Trade also connects producers and consumers through greater transparency of supply chains. Fair Trade is not charity but a partnership for change and development through trade.

Fair Trade’s work depends on trust; consumers who buy Fair Trade products and the trust of those who invest in new services and programmes. Fair Trade Organizations are committed to protecting that trust, first by practicing the highest standards of integrity, transparency and accountability, and second, by striving for continual improvement of its impact.

Who is the World Fair Trade Organization?

World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) is the global network of producers, marketers, exporters, importers, wholesalers and retailers that demonstrate 100% commitment to Fair Trade and apply the 10 WFTO Principles of Fair Trade to their supply chain. They operate in over 70 countries across 5 regions with elected global and regional boards.

Who Are The Other Major Players?

Fairtrade International is the Organization that coordinates the Fairtrade labelling scheme. It is co-owned by 3 Regional Producer Networks (representing over 1400 Organizations certified to Fairtrade standards in 73 countries) and 19 National Fair Trade Organizations who licence the Fairtrade label and promote it to businesses and consumers.


Markets are typically dominated by a handful of international firms who have the power to set the terms of trade for their suppliers, forcing prices down, often to levels below the full costs of production. The expansion of global trade in recent decades has been a major contributor to economic growth in most countries, but the gains from increased global trade have not been shared evenly.

Inequality has grown dramatically and 800 million people still suffer from extreme poverty and face a daily struggle to secure access to land, water, education, and healthcare. The global economic crisis of 2007/8 has amplified these trends. Current levels of inequality are a major threat to human rights and a cause of instability, conflict and forced migrations.

Imbalances of power in supply chains in which many markets are dominated by a handful of firms. These firms have the power to set the terms of trade for their suppliers, forcing prices down, often to levels below the costs of production, leaving small producers and workers struggling to earn enough to maintain themselves and their families with dignity. This also leaves workers vulnerable to unsafe working conditions and other forms of exploitation.

How it started

It all started in the United States, where Ten Thousand Villages started buying needlework from Puerto Rico in 1946. About 10 years later, in 1958, the first “Fair Trade” shop opened in the USA and Fair Trade Original was officially established in 1967. After this, NGOs and socially motivated individuals saw the need for fair marketing organisations to provide advice, assistance and support to disadvantaged producers. International partnerships between Fair Trade Organisations were established with a goal of greater equality in international trade. These Organisations traded mostly with handicrafts producers. Often, handmade crafts provide supplementary income to families. They are of crucial importance to households headed by women who have limited employment opportunities. Most Northern Fair Trade Organisations focused on buying these products and sold them through World Shops.

In 1973, Fair Trade Original in the Netherlands, imported the first Fairly Traded coffee from cooperatives of small farmers in Guatemala. Now, more than 30 years later, Fair coffee has become well-known. After the success of coffee, many fair trading organisations expanded their food range and started selling commodity products like tea, cocoa, sugar, wine, fruit juices, nuts, rice and spices.

From the mid 70s, Fair Trade Organisations worldwide began to meet informally in conferences every couple of years. The second United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Deli communicated “Trade not Aid”. This approach put the emphasis on the establishment of equitable trade relations with the South, instead of seeing the North appropriate all the benefits and only returning a small part of these benefits in the form of development aid. Alongside the development trade there was also a branch of solidarity trade.

By the mid 80s there was a desire to come together more formally and two organisations were established. The European Fair Trade Association (EFTA), an association of the 11 largest importing Fair Trade organisations in Europe and the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), formerly the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT). In 1997, Fairtrade Labelling International (FLO, now Fairtrade International) was created. Products that meet the standards are identified by the Fairtrade label.

The first World Fair Trade Day was celebrated on May 4, 2002. Now World Fair Trade Day takes place every year on the second Saturday of May and has its own Website: www.wftday.org.

In 2013, members of WFTO approved the new Guarantee System (GS). The GS uses the WFTO Fair Trade Standard for organisations, which comprises a set of compliance criteria based on the 10 Principles of Fair Trade and International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. The GS revolutionised Fair Trade verification. Members that successfully complete the GS process become Guaranteed Members and are able to use the WFTO Product Label on their products. It is a label for Guaranteed Fair Trade Organisations that can be used on products as an assurance for buyers and consumers that the Guaranteed member has complied with the Fair Trade Standard.

Join us on September 25th to

celebrate the new Charter, initiated by Fairtrade International and the World Fair Trade Organization, which defines new models that build a stronger economy and environment for everyone. It has been recognized by an escalating number of diverse local, national and international organizations from across the cooperative, social enterprise, organic, farmer and global solidarity movements.

Recently revised to capture the #FairTrade movement's vision and principles, the International Fair Trade Charter serves as the single reference point for Fair Trade. Launching online on this channel on 25 September 2018. Follow #FairTradeCharter to get recent updates on activities.#TradeFairLiveFair Video by WomenCraft Social Enterprise

Posted by World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) on Thursday, September 6, 2018

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