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Published on October 16th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


7 Basic Keys to Successful Fair Trade Relationships

In honor of Fair Trade month, we thought we’d share seven basics keys to every successful Fair Trade relationship.

These keys also serve as guideposts for the organizations that provide Fair Trade certification and labeling—providing you with a great list of questions to ask about prospective purchases.

Fair Trade Exchange

  • Local Fair Wage and Fair Price

    Fair Trade is not about charity—it is about empowerment. Producers are guaranteed a minimum price with an additional premium for certified organic products. Workers are paid at least their country’s minimum wage. Beyond that, a “living wage”, which covers basic needs—food, shelter, health care, and educational costs—is always the goal.

  • Fair Working Conditions

    On farms that join Fair Trade groups, workers must have freedom of association and a safe working environment. Exploitative practices such as forced child labor are banned. Workplaces are run democratically, and farming associations and cooperatives are supported.

  • Direct Trade and Technical Support

    A basic concept of Fair Trade is the development of direct connections between small-scale producers and their ultimate markets. Eliminating middlemen ensures that profits to the producers are maximized. To make this possible, Fair Trade organizations work with farmers to develop the skills and capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace directly.

    Besides assistance such as financial management training and product development advice, Fair Trade member businesses also often prepay producers so they have the money to cover the costs of raw materials. These are long term relationships focused around the goal of encouraging sustainable, green development in the third world that benefits the whole planet.

  • Environmental Sustainability

    Fair Trade farms use practices that protect workers’ health and preserve the ecosystem. Genetically modified crops are prohibited and certified organic production is supported wherever possible. Fair Trade organizers work with local farmers to develop crops and methods that conserve biodiversity, as in, for example, shade-grown organic coffee and tea.

  • Cultural Respect

    Fair Trade organizations help farmers and artisans develop products adapted to Western markets, while still preserving cultural traditions and identity.

  • Grassroots Community Development

    Fair Trade organizations mainly work with small businesses, farm cooperatives, and producer associations. These self-reliant groups pool resources to obtain credit and bargain for better prices. They determine their most pressing needs themselves and how to most appropriately reinvest their increased profits.

    Typical projects funded by their Fair Trade profits include education for their children and themselves, health clinics, community child care facilities, and organic certification for farms.

  • Cross-Cultural Understanding

    Helping consumers understand the hidden costs—to others and to the ecosystem—of their “bargains”, giving a glimpse into the stories behind the goods you buy that are produced so far away, is a part of the mission of Fair Trade. Some of the member dues are used for educating consumers. For example, the labels of many Fair Trade products often contain information about the culture and living conditions of the people who have made or grown them.

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