What makes Fairtrade different

There are lots of different ethical labels in the market and you might be wondering how you should choose one over another. 

Here’s our guide to what we think makes Fairtrade the scheme of choice for those looking to have the most impact for the farmers and workers who grow your food:

Farmers and workers sit on our board

The international Fairtrade system is governed by the General Assembly and the Board of Directors. 50% of the General Assembly is made up of representatives from farmer and worker organisations. Four out of eleven board members are also producer representatives. Through the Board and its committees, they are make decisions on overall strategy, use of resources and setting prices, premiums and standards.

No other schemes give farmers this much say in how the organisation is run. When comparing schemes look at who actually makes the decisions and in whose interests they are working – is it the farmers or the companies who buy from them?

Fairtrade Minimum Price

For most Fairtrade goods there is a Fairtrade minimum price which is set to cover the cost of sustainable production for that product in that region. If the market price for that product is higher that our minimum price, then farmers and workers should receive the market price.

We understand that meeting our Fairtrade Standards requires effort by farmers and workers, therefore we think that they should know that they won’t lose money on the products that they sell on those terms. Check to see whether other schemes offer this, or do they simply demand that farmers meet standards whilst giving them in return.

Fairtrade Premium

Over and above the Fairtrade price, the Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for workers and farmers to use – as they see fit - to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions.
Farmers and workers themselves determine what is most important to them; whether this is education or healthcare for their children, improving their business or building vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges for their community.

Where other schemes give money to communities, who makes the decision on how it is spent? Can the farmers use it to develop their communities in the way they want to, or does the business impose their view on how the money should be used?

Transparency and independence

The Fairtrade certification system is run by an independent company called FLO-CERT. By checking compliance with Fairtrade Standards, FLO-CERT ensures that the relevant social and environmental standards are met for the raw materials and products that carry the FAIRTRADE Mark and that producers receive the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium. FLO-CERT auditors are highly qualified, usually based in the countries and regions where producers are located, and familiar with local cultures, languages, and legal systems.

Always check just how independent a scheme is. Who monitors the impact they have, and how transparent are they?

If you want more details on how you can assess different labels, visit ISEAL’s ‘Challenge the Label’ microsite for some tools and tips.