A Fair Trade & Sustainable Development White Paper


A fair trade & sustainable development white paper for fair trade certifiers and membership organizations.  Do you ever wonder what that little logo saying “fair trade” on some of your products actually means?  What do the logo’s represent?  Below we’ll explain some of the basic principles of these organizations & what they do.

-Membership organizations & fair trade certifiers all believe in these basic fair trade principles-

  • Long-term direct trading relationships
  • Workplace non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association
  • Investment in community development projects
  • Prompt payment of fair prices and wages
  • Environmental sustainability
  • No child, forced or otherwise exploited labor
  • Traceability and transparency
  • Safe working conditions and reasonable work hours


Fair trade validation systems can be grouped into three major categories.  This table shows their main attributes and several popular examples.


3rd Part Inspection & Certification

3rd party certifiers field-inspect growing & processing, possibly trading operations & compare performance against a set of FT standards




Membership Organizations

Organization evaluates FT commitment & practice of companies against its membership criteria. No systematic verification of conditions along the value chain.


Brand Programs


Major brands develop in-house FT programs & work with a 3rd party to inspect & certify the company’s operations against the standards.



A product sold by a company that is a member of a fair trade membership organization may not have gone through third-party certifications; conversely, a product certified as “fair trade” under a certification program does not mean that the company that produces the certified product is a dedicated fair trade company.

This is the first part of identifying and getting a sense for what this whole “fair trade” thing is all about. In the next article we’ll delve deeper into other aspects of this very important cause.

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