For a product to display the FAIRTRADE Mark it must meet the international Fairtrade standards.
Fairtrade International (FLO) sets and maintains the Fairtrade standards that producers and trading relationships must meet. FLO is owned jointly by 21 national labelling initiatives covering 22 countries and producer networks. These networks represent certified farmers and worker organisations across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. FLO sets standards and works with farmers and workers to help them meet the requirements; a separate certification company (FLO-CERT) regularly inspects and certifies producers against these standards.
All producers, processors and exporters in the producer country are certified by FLO-CERT. The products of importers and companies in the supply chain outside of the producer country are certified either by FLO-CERT or by the local labelling Initiative. The Fairtrade Foundation is responsible for certifying Fairtrade products in the UK. See For Business for more information.
What are the Fairtrade standards?
They're not just a list of requirements for farmers and traders to farm and trade responsibly. They go further to support disadvantaged small-scale farmers and plantation workers. Fairtrade standards cover three areas: social development, economic development and environmental development.
- ensure producers get a guaranteed Fairtrade Minimum Price to cover their costs
- provide the additional Fairtrade Premium for farmers to invest in projects to benefit their communities and businesses
- enable payment of contracts in advance if farmers need them
- encourage partnerships between trade partners
- set up mutually beneficial long-term trading relationships
- set clear criteria to ensure that products are produced and traded under fair and environmentally responsible conditions
Producer organisations have to meet minimum requirements in order to be certified and then, over time, they must meet more requirements which demonstrate permanent improvement.
For example, a minimum requirement is a ban on the use of agrochemicals in the FLO list of prohibited materials. A progress requirement is to keep reducing permitted agrochemicals. In this way, the standards enable poorer, more vulnerable farmers to enter the system, while supporting them to gradually improve their practices.
Fairtrade recognises that progress depends on the economic benefits the organisation receives from Fairtrade and on the specific situation of each organisation.
Who must meet Fairtrade standards?
Producers and their organisations must meet Fairtrade standards, Generic Producer Standards and Product Specific Standards. Traders who deal with Fairtrade products must meet Trade Standards, Product Specific Standards and the Foundation's Fairtrade Standards.
The Foundation's Fairtrade Standards are for all companies in the UK that trade in Fairtrade products. This incorporates the FLO Trade Standards and Product Specific Standards and can be found here. You can read the Producer Standards, Product Specific Standards and Trade Standards on the Fairtrade International (FLO) website.
Generic producer standards
Fairtrade works with two main types of producer organisations: small farmers’ organisations and commercial farms and other companies that permanently employ Hired Labour. FLO has developed distinct standards for each group that relate to their different ownership structures and other characteristics.
The standards cover the aims of Fairtrade and set out in detail the criteria producers must meet to participate in Fairtrade. They also explain how Fairtrade relates to other internationally recognised standards and conventions, particularly those of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and that all producer organisations must also comply with national legislation. Where there are different values, the higher of FLO standards and national legislation takes precedence.
The generic standards apply to all producers within the FLO geographical scope regardless of the product. Specific requirements for individual products may also apply. These are covered in the product specific Fairtrade Standards.
Generic Fairtrade Standards for Small Farmers’ Organisations
Coffee, cocoa, cotton and rice are among the many products that are grown by independent small farmers who work their own land and market their produce through a local co-operative. These producers want a fair and stable price for their crop, improved and long-term market access, and payment in advance when required.
The Generic Fairtrade Standards for Small Farmers’ Organisations apply to small-scale farmers who are organised into co-operatives or other associations which are organised democratically with transparent administration.
The structure of these organisations varies: while one co-operative might have 50 farmers from the same village with very small plots of land, a bigger co-operative union might include twenty member co-operatives representing several village co-ops and thousands of individual farmers. The size of land owned by individual members can vary according to membership rules, cultural norms and other factors.
More information on Fairtrade Standards for Small Farmer Organisations can be found here.
Generic Fairtrade Standards for Hired Labour
Tea, bananas, grapes and flowers are among the many products grown on commercial farms. Workers can participate in Fairtrade if they are organized (normally into trade unions) and if the company that they work for is prepared to promote its workers’ development and to share with them the additional revenues generated by Fairtrade. The standard covers all workers including migrant, temporary, seasonal, sub-contracted and permanent workers. The term workers is limited to those who can be unionised and therefore excludes middle and senior management.
Companies working with hired labour can be certified if they comply with the requirements of the standards to pay decent wages, guarantee the right to join a trade union, ensure health and safety standards, and provide adequate housing and other social provision where relevant. Eligible companies include commercial or privately-owned farms, estates, plantations, and sportsball stitching centres. The standard also applies to processing factories located on tea estates and flower farms. The priorities for the workers (or hired labour) employed by these companies are generally decent wages and working conditions.
In the Hired Labour standards, the social development criteria are intended to ensure that companies recognise and support Fairtrade as a means to increase the empowerment and well-being of their workers. They protect workers’ basic rights as defined in the conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) relating to:
- freedom from discrimination (on the grounds of race, religion, gender, politics, and ethnic or social origin)
- freedom of association (the right to join a trade union) and collective bargaining
- fair conditions of employment (wages, working hours, overtime, sick pay, leave etc)
- no forced or child labour (minimum age of 15 years)
- occupational health and safety (a safe working environment).
The economic development criteria ensure the use of the Fairtrade premium for the social and economic benefit of the workers, their families and their communities. The premium cannot be used for the benefit of the company owners. A Joint Body is set up, comprising elected worker representatives and a minority of management representatives whose role is to assist and support the Joint Body in the management of the premium fund. The premium is invested in projects agreed by the Joint Body following consultation with the workforce. Workers’ representatives receive appropriate training in areas such as finance, record keeping, and administration in order to build their capacity and ability to deal with their additional Joint Body responsibilities.
Beside the premium administration it is expected that the establishment of Joint Bodies will have other positive outcomes such as the development of good working relationships between the management and workers; the empowerment of members through the process of working with Fairtrade; the acquisition of skills in leadership and communication, project planning and project management necessary to function effectively; developing the capacity to operate without further assistance.
The scope of the environmental development standards is the same as for small farmers’ organisations and is intended to ensure that companies protect the natural environment.
Product specific standards
As well as the generic standards, producers must also meet any relevant product specific standards. These standards include additional social, economic and environmental criteria, related to a specific product, which must also be met over time.
For example in the case of dried fruit produced by small farmers, the product specific standard requires that appropriate measures are being taken over time to increase the percentage of registered women growers and to promote their active role in decision-making processes (including participation at members’ meetings and establishment of a women’s subcommittees). Also, in the case of women growers and drier operators, it has to be ensured that payments are given to the woman directly and not to the husband..
Visit the FLO website for full details of:
Trade standards and the Foundation's Fairtrade standards
Additional to the product specific standards are a set of criteria that cover the terms of trade which traders who buy Fairtrade certified products must comply with. They include technical requirements relating to quality, shipment conditions, terms of payment and other commercial provisions. For companies that trade in Fairtrade products in the UK these are all included in the Fairtrade Standards. These include:
- Pay at least a price to producers that at least covers the costs of sustainable production: the Fairtrade Minimum Price.
- Pay a premium that producers can invest in development: the Fairtrade Premium.
- Partially pay in advance, when producers ask for it.
- Sign contracts that allow for long-term planning and sustainable production practices.
- Traceability systems and record keeping systems
- Subcontractors' compliance with the relevant requirements
Traders are audited against these standards and to ensure that they are buying Fairtrade products only from Fairtrade certified producer groups and managing systems in their factories and warehouses that enable them to report sales and purchases accurately into the Fairtrade system.
The standards are independently audited by the Foundation, FLO-CERT or the relevant labeling Initiative. The FLO Generic Trade Standard has been updated and is now incorporated in the Foundation's Fairtrade Standards. More information on this and on Fairtrade products in the UK can be found here. Information about the new requirements in the Generic Trade Standard can be found on the FLO website.
Products covered by the FAIRTRADE Mark
Internationally-agreedFairtrade generic criteria exist for the following commodity products.In each category there is a list of certified producer organisationsmaintained by a FLO register.
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit and fresh vegetables
- Nuts/Oil seeds and purees
- Soyabeans and pulses
- Herbs and spices
- Cut flowers
- Ornamental plants
- Sports balls