FAQs

Below are a list of answers to frequently asked questions about Fairtrade. 

Fairtrade in general

What is Fairtrade?
 
Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.
What is the Fairtrade Foundation?
 
The Fairtrade Foundation is a development organisation committed to tackling poverty and injustice through trade and is the UK member of Fairtrade International (FLO). We work with businesses, civil society organisations and individuals to improve the position of farmers and workers in the developing world and to support them to improve their lives, businesses and communities. We use certification and product labelling (through the FAIRTRADE Mark) to do this. We couldn’t do it without support from farmers, workers and consumers in a citizen’s movement for change.
What is the FAIRTRADE Mark?
 
It’s an independent consumer label you see on a product that meets the international Fairtrade standards. It shows that the product has been certified to offer a better deal to the farmers and workers involved. It does not endorse an entire company’s business practices.
Who is Fairtrade International/FLO?
 

Fairtrade International (formally known as Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International - or 'FLO') is the international body made up of the Fairtrade Foundation and its partner organisations around the world. We’re proud to say it’s 50 per cent owned by the farmers and workers it works for. FLO is in charge of developing Fairtrade standards for products, supporting farmers and workers, and operating global certification and auditing systems.

FLO is based in Bonn, Germany, and is composed of two separate organisations:
 
1. FLO International eV. is a non-profit multi-stakeholder association. FLO develops and reviews international Fairtrade standards and supports farmers and workers to make the most of market opportunities. Read more at www.fairtrade.net/who-we-are.html

2. FLO-CERT GmbH is a limited company in charge of the inspection and certification of farmers, workers and traders. It operates independently of any other interests, and follows the international ISO standard for certification bodies (ISO 65). Read more at www.flo-cert.net/flo-cert/158.html

What is a Fairtrade registered licensee?
 
It’s a company that has signed a Licence Agreement with the Fairtrade Foundation and is therefore entitled to apply the FAIRTRADE Mark to specific products covered by the agreement.
What are Fairtrade standards?
 
Fairtrade standards comprise both minimum social, economic and environmental requirements, which producers must meet to be certified, plus progress requirements that encourage the continuous improvement of develop farmers’ organisations or the situation of estate workers. Read more about the standards here: www.fairtrade.net/standards.html
What is a Fairtrade certified producer group?
 

This is either an association of farmers or a company dependent on hired labour that produces one or more commodities for which there are Fairtrade standards and that has been certified to meet those standards. Once certified, they are added to the Fairtrade product register and registered companies can buy from them under Fairtrade terms.

Some Fairtrade certified producer groups are able to sell their entire production under Fairtrade terms, while others sell only a very small percentage and badly need more buyers to offer a Fairtrade deal. It is only by increasing the amount sold as Fairtrade that producer groups are able to receive a steady stream of additional income to improve their lives.

What is the Fairtrade minimum price?
 
The Fairtrade minimum price defines the lowest possible price that a buyer of Fairtrade products must pay the producer. The minimum price is set based on a consultative process with Fairtrade farmers, workers and traders and guarantees that producer groups receive a price which covers what it costs them to grow their crop. When the market price is higher than the Fairtrade minimum price, the trader must pay the market price. You can read more about the Fairtrade minimum price here.
What is the Fairtrade premium?
 
It’s what makes Fairtrade unique. It’s an additional sum of money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price that farmers and workers invest in social, environmental and economic developmental projects to improve their businesses and their communities. They decide democratically by committee how to invest the premium. You can read more about what farmers spend their premium here. Read more about the Fairtrade premium in general here.
What is a Fairtrade Town (or School, University, Faith Group)?
 
We certify products, nothing else. But we do run campaigns with local community groups aimed at boosting awareness and understanding of trade issues, and promoting the buying of Fairtrade products as a way for everyone, no matter who they are, to use the power of their purchase to make a difference to the lives of farmers and workers.

These campaigns have a set of goals and receive a certificate of congratulation from the Fairtrade Foundation when they are achieved. Once a local community declares its status as a Fairtrade Town (or university or place of worship) it must be committed to continuing campaigning and awareness raising.
Can I find out about the difference Fairtrade makes from the farmers themselves?
 
Yes. Just visit AskMalawi.tv to ask farmers in Malawi directly.


About Fairtrade products in the UK

How many Fairtrade products in the UK are there?
 
Thousands! We have licensed over 4,500 Fairtrade certified products for sale through retail and catering outlets in the UK.
How big is the UK Fairtrade market?
 
The UK is one of the world’s leading Fairtrade markets, with more products and more awareness of Fairtrade than anywhere else. Almost one in three bananas sold in the UK is Fairtrade. Fairtrade sales in 2012 were £1.57bn.
What product categories does Fairtrade certify?
 

Fairtrade standards exist for the following products:

Food products:
• Bananas
• Cocoa
• Coffee
• Dried Fruit
• Fresh Fruit & Fresh Vegetables
• Honey
• Juices
• Nuts/Oil Seeds/Oil
• Quinoa
• Rice
• Spices
• Sugar
• Tea
• Wine

Non-food products:
• Beauty products
• Cotton
• Cut Flowers
• Ornamental Plants
• Sports Balls
• Gold
• Platinum
• Silver

Where can I buy Fairtrade products?
 
See our products pages. You’ll find Fairtrade products in supermarkets, independent shops, cafés, restaurants, through catering suppliers and wholesales, as well as online. Also check out shops that are part of BAFTS (British Association of Fair Trade Shops) which often have product ranges not available in mainstream stores.
How do I stock Fairtrade certified products in my shop, café, restaurant or school?
 
Our Out of Home Directory lists registered distributors of Fairtrade products and our Wholesaler Suppliers Directory lists registered distributors that can supply shops.
My local shop, supermarket or café doesn’t offer Fairtrade products. What can I do?
 
You can order leaflets from us explaining Fairtrade and give them to the manager, while politely asking them to stock Fairtrade. And when they do, support them by telling others and buying the Fairtrade products!
 
How much of the price we pay for Fairtrade products goes back to the producers?
 
Whatever the price of the product on the shelf, only the FAIRTRADE Mark ensures that the producers have received what is agreed as a fairer price, as well as the Fairtrade premium to invest in the future of their communities. The Fairtrade price applies at the point where the producer organisation sells to the next person in the supply chain (usually an exporter or importer). It is not calculated as a proportion of the final retail price, which is negotiated between the product manufacturer and the retailer.
You can read a fuller explanation here: Retail pricing of Fairtrade products (DOC).
Why isn’t the Fairtrade price calculated as a percentage of the retail price?
 
We are often asked how much farmers receive from the retail price of a product sold on Fairtrade terms compared to the same product sold on conventional terms. While this type of comparison may appear to be a simple way to demonstrate the impact of Fairtrade from the consumer’s perspective, it doesn’t actually address the real inequities in typical conventional market arrangements.

For producers, the value of Fairtrade is not about the relationship of their selling price to that of the finished product, but to their costs of production and the conventional market price. There are also many complex and variable factors to take into account in comparing different elements of the final price paid by consumers which can be misleading. For example, the price received by a cocoa or coffee producer selling to the conventional market depends on many factors including:
 
• fluctuating international market prices - the producer ‘cut’ from a chocolate bar will vary according to the international price of cocoa at the time of sale and the percentage cocoa content of the bar

• whether the producer is an independent smallholder or a plantation worker
 
• whether the smallholder/co-operative/plantation carries out processing or other value-added operations

• whether a smallholder sells directly to a local buyer or is a member of a co-operative

• whether the co-operative sells to local traders or to auction, or exports the product on behalf of its members

• local trading conditions – these can vary greatly within a country let alone within different continents e.g. whether the industry has been liberalised or is state-regulated

• the varying costs of production from country to country.

Once the primary product is sold to a certified Fairtrade importer, the costs are similar to those for a conventional product – transport and export costs; shipping and insurance; import licences and taxes; ripening or processing; packing; warehousing and distribution; marketing and promotion and; retailer overheads.

The Fairtrade Foundation has no control or influence over commercial costs or margins. And because the major costs of the finished product are incurred after the producer has sold the commodity, the return to the producer will inevitably make up a relatively small percentage of the retail price.
Why do some products claim to be “fair trade’’ but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark?
 
Some organisations, also called Alternative Trading Organisations (ATOs), are purely dedicated to trading fairly and have been doing so for many years before Fairtrade certification was established. You can find these organisations listed at WFTO or BAFTS. It can take a long time to agree new international Fairtrade standards, and for many of the products these organisations sell, there may not yet be standards available for their products.
 
However some other companies make their own ‘fair trade’ claims without having the independent scrutiny of the FAIRTRADE Mark, or being part of a recognised network such as WFTO. You need to ask what these claims are based upon. If you want to be sure that farmers and workers are receiving the better deal offered by Fairtrade, always look for the FAIRTRADE Mark.
 
Why aren’t handicrafts Fairtrade certified?
 
Fairtrade certification and pricing were designed for commodity products. It is hard to adapt the Fairtrade model of standardised minimum pricing to crafts and other products made by small-scale artisans, which are unique, made of varied materials and have highly varied production processes and costs. However, FLO is working with WFTO to explore whether we could certify these products in the future.

Fairtrade standards and certification

How do I set up a licensee agreement to get my product certified or source a product to be certified?
 
The Fairtrade Foundation’s Commercial Relations team will guide you through the process. For more information read our For Business section of the website.
How can my producer group become Fairtrade certified?
 
You’ll need to contact FLO-CERT, details are on their website.
Who is responsible for setting Fairtrade standards?
 
All Fairtrade standards, including minimum prices and premiums are set by the Standards Unit at FLO and the minimum prices and premiums for each product are included in the product-specific standards available on their website. The process for agreeing international Fairtrade standards follows the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Social and Environmental Labelling, where stakeholders (including producers, traders, NGOs) participate in the research and consultation process and final decision making.
Why are some Fairtrade prices set worldwide and others set for countries or regions?
 
There are worldwide prices for some products such as nuts, cocoa and juices, but most products have country-specific or regional prices. This is because production costs vary greatly around the world and prices for new products and origins have been set on a case-by-case basis. As the demand for new prices grows, the FLO Standards Unit is increasingly using regional rather than country-specific prices.

This means new prices cover as many farmers/workers as possible and avoid the need for new research into pricing for the same product every time a new producer group is identified in a new country. If production costs vary significantly in a region a consensus is reached between the farmers/workers and other stakeholders, in order to set a price that is acceptable for the whole region.
Why doesn’t Fairtrade certify large coffee plantations?
 
Around 70% of the world’s coffee farmers are small-scale growers, and they face particular disadvantages in the market place. Fairtrade’s mission is to make trade work for marginalised or disadvantaged producers, and therefore there is a global agreement that the system should offer champion purchase of sustainable coffee from organisations of small coffee farmers explicitly. Read our fairtrade_and_coffee_plantations (22.25KB) (PDF) to find out more.
How does Fairtrade labelling work with composite products?
 

Many Fairtrade products, such as coffee, tea, flowers, sugar and rice are 100 per cent Fairtrade. However there are other products, such as cakes, biscuits, ice cream and chocolate, in which the ingredients are a mixture of Fairtrade ingredients from developing countries (such as sugar, cocoa, honey and vanilla) and ingredients sourced more locally from UK or European farmers (such as milk, flour or eggs). These are known as ‘composite products’.

To take account of this, the Fairtrade Foundation has developed requirements for where and how the FAIRTRADE Mark may be used based on FLO policy.

The main principles of these requirements are:


  • 100 per cent of any ingredient that can be Fairtrade certified, must be Fairtrade certified.
  • Any product may carry the FAIRTRADE Mark if more than 50 per cent of its total ingredients (calculated by dry weight) are sourced from Fairtrade certified producer organisations.
  • If the total Fairtrade certified ingredient content is less than 50 per cent, the product may still be eligible if it has one significant Fairtrade ingredient that represents more than 20 per cent of the product’s dry weight. An example of a significant ingredient might be an orange juice drink made of 20 per cent Fairtrade certified orange juice and the rest water.
More information about product certification and these requirements can be found in the Fairtrade standards.

comp_policy Download the FLO Composite Policy
Are Fairtrade products fully traceable?
 

For most Fairtrade products including bananas, fresh fruit, coffee, flowers, nuts, rice, spices and others, the Fairtrade system requires these products to be physically traceable. This means they must be labelled and kept separate at every stage of their journey from the farm to the shop shelves. However, when we attempted to introduce similar rules for products such as cocoa, sugar, tea and juice, we discovered that there is very little physical traceability in the way these sectors work.

For example, the chocolate industry is currently not always able to keep Fairtrade cocoa and non-Fairtrade cocoa separate at every stage of production from the cocoa field to the final bar. Cocoa beans are delivered in bulk by farmers and routinely mixed during shipping and in the manufacturing process.

Rather than ruling out these sectors and losing Fairtrade sales opportunities for thousands of small farmers, Fairtrade has set up a system to ensure that manufacturers that want to use the FAIRTRADE Mark must buy the precise amount of produce they need from Fairtrade farmers that will be used in their final product. This system is known as ‘mass balance’. 

So, if a chocolate bar uses 500 tonnes of cocoa, then the manufacturer must purchase 500 tonnes of cocoa on Fairtrade terms, including the payment of an additional $200 Fairtrade Premium per tonne. This means that even if the beans are later mixed with non-Fairtrade beans - as often happens - Fairtrade cocoa farmers still get 100 per cent of the benefits, and the better deal that the FAIRTRADE Mark stands for. 

Our mission is to support farmers and workers in the developing world to increase their share in global trade. Fairtrade’s stringent inspection and audit system is in place to ensure the amount of Fairtrade product manufactured exactly matches the amount of Fairtrade product purchased. 



Fairtrade, climate and environment

Is buying Fairtrade products a good idea, given concerns on climate change?
 

There is no doubt that far-reaching global action has to be taken now to deal with climate change. However if the debate around this issue becomes overly concerned with the question of food miles, this could severely damage opportunities for sustainable forms of export agriculture to contribute to the economic and social development of poor farmers and workers.

Agriculture can play a critical role in the economic and social development of developing countries – up to one and a half million livelihoods in Africa alone are estimated to be dependent upon UK consumption of agricultural and horticultural produce. Increased agricultural growth is thought to be the most likely source of economic growth in Africa given that 70 per cent of its rural poor work on the land. Fairtrade certification ensures that the benefits of agriculture accrue to marginalised and disadvantaged producers.

While an international consensus has been reached on the science of climate change, what is now needed is a balanced debate on the best way forward to reduce the impact of climate change while also supporting developing countries in tackling poverty and promoting sustainable development.

Can buying Fairtrade products help to tackle climate change?
 

Farmers/workers must meet environmental standards as part of certification. Producers are required to work to protect the natural environment and make environmental protection a part of farm management. They are also encouraged to minimise the use of energy, especially from non-renewable sources.

By choosing Fairtrade, shoppers in the UK are ensuring that farmers and workers receive a Fairtrade premium to invest in economic, social and environmental products of their own choice. It means they can implement a range of environmental protection programmes which contribute to the range of solutions needed to address climate change and ultimately benefit us all. To give two examples, tea workers in India have invested some of their Fairtrade Premium into replacing the traditional wood-burning heating with a solar-panelled system. Coffee farmers in Costa Rica have used the premium to replant trees to prevent soil erosion and have invested in environmentally friendly ovens, fuelled by recycled coffee hulls and the dried shells of macadamia nuts. This means that they no longer need to cut forest trees and so can preserve the rainforest and the oxygen they produce.

By choosing Fairtrade products, you can help farmers and workers preserve their own environment and allow them to have a positive social benefit in their community.

Climate change hits the poorest in developing countries hardest. This includes people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. Through the Fairtrade Premium farmers and workers have a little extra to use when harvests fail, or if they need to change to growing a different crop if the climate becomes unsuitable for the way they currently farm.
 
 You can read more about Fairtrade and climate change here under ‘Environment’.

Are Fairtrade certified products also organic?
 
Not necessarily. Fairtrade standards require sustainable farming techniques and require higher prices to be paid for organic products. Moreover, Fairtrade Premiums are often used to train producers in organic and sustainable techniques like composting and using recycled materials, which can help them to convert to organic production in the future.
What about Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?
 
There has been much concern among consumers over GMO crops. Many worry about the risks of environmental contamination and it has been argued that producer dependence on use of GM seeds could outweigh the benefits of the crops. The Fairtrade system’s environmental standards and guidelines currently forbid the use of GM seeds by farmers, and encourage active monitoring in nearby fields. However, it may not always be possible for small farmers to prevent contamination from a neighbouring field, and therefore we do not label Fairtrade products as 100 per cent GM free.
 
Read the Q&A on Fairtrade standards and Genetically Modified Organisms; 
Fairtrade GM Q_A Jan 08.pdf Read the Q&A on Fairtrade standards and Genetically Modified Organisms.

Fairtrade and local issues

Why doesn’t the FAIRTRADE Mark apply to UK farmers?
 
The FAIRTRADE Mark was established specifically to support the most disadvantaged producers in the world by using trade as a tool for sustainable development. We do recognise that many farmers in the UK face similar issues as farmers elsewhere, not least ensuring that they get a decent return for upholding social and environmental standards in their production. However there are also some major differences. For example, farmers in developing countries often have little infrastructural support, social security systems or other safety nets available if they cannot get a fair price for their products. Our Fairtrade standards, and our expertise, are specifically focused on enabling producers in developing countries tackle poverty through trade. If the Foundation diverted its own attention from this mission, this could potentially end up diluting the benefits of Fairtrade for the very farmers and workers we were established to support.

We agree that the principles behind fair trade may provide useful insight into the debate on improving the situation for UK producers. However, the Foundation is not convinced, that a labelling scheme is the right solution to the problems affecting UK farmers. A plethora of similar sounding labelling initiatives could result in confusion for consumers and undermine both the local cause and the global situation we care so deeply about. Rather than yet another label, the Foundation believes a more rigorous investigation by government and the industry itself is needed. This should look into the causes behind the problems being experienced by domestic producers, so that more robust and wide reaching policy tools can be identified – to benefit all affected farmers, and to reassure all concerned shoppers.
Some people say ‘buy local’ rather than ‘buy Fairtrade’. What is the Fairtrade Foundation’s response?
 
Buy both! We recognise that many farmers in the UK face similar issues to farmers elsewhere, not least ensuring that they get a fair return for upholding decent social and environmental standards in their production. We therefore support the promotion of sustainable production for UK farmers but our specific role will continue to be supporting farmers from the developing world.

Fairtrade isn’t in competition with UK farmers and buying local and buying Fairtrade need not be mutually exclusive. Fairtrade focuses mainly on products such as coffee and bananas that can’t be grown in temperate climates or products that can’t be grown in sufficient quantities in the EU e.g. grapes and oranges. For some items such as honey and flowers, local supply is not able to meet the total demand - it has been estimated that both UK flowers and honey account for less than one-third of the UK market - and so imports are necessary to meet demand. Other products, such as apples, are seasonal in both the UK and places like South Africa, and for as long as shoppers want to buy apples out of season, there is a demand for fruit from other countries. Often the choice facing shoppers is not necessarily between local honey and Fairtrade certified honey but between Fairtrade honey and conventional honey imported from, say, the US or China. It is up to each person to weigh up these choices and shop accordingly.

Ultimately, it is up to each person to do what they see as being in the interests of people and our planet. What is important is that we all try to make informed choices wherever possible. We are committed to raising awareness of ways in which buying products carrying the FAIRTRADE Mark is empowering and strengthening the future for disadvantaged farmers and workers in developing countries.

Promoting Fairtrade

Can I put the FAIRTRADE Mark on my website or promotional materials?
 
If your company or organisation is selling or expressly promoting Fairtrade certified products you can put the FAIRTRADE Mark on your website and promotional materials in accordance with our guidelines in our Promotional Materials Manual. Find out more here.
Where can I get free promotional materials?
 
We’ve got loads of promotional materials, many of them free, available to order from our Shop Fairtrade e-shop.
Where can I find images of Fairtrade producers?
 
The Fairtrade Foundation has a limited number of producer images that are available to use in accordance with copyright agreements. Visit our Photo Library for more details. 
Can someone come and give a talk to my group?
 
We receive many requests every day and are unfortunately unable to accept every invitation. If you are a school or small local group, you may wish to check if there is a Fairtrade Town campaign in your area, and contact the local representative.

Meanwhile, Traidcraft has a nationwide network of speakers. If you are a school, visit our Fairtrade Schools website for details of organisations and resource people you can contact. If you are a group working towards Fairtrade Town status, it may be possible for our Fairtrade Towns advisor, Bruce Crowther, to visit you or speak at your campaign launch. If you are holding a major event and wish to invite a Fairtrade Foundation speaker, please email us at mail@fairtrade.org.uk.
Where can I get free samples of Fairtrade products for an event?
 
The Fairtrade Foundation is unable to provide samples. However, if you contact Fairtrade registered licensees directly, they can often provide samples of tea, coffee, sugar and chocolate. At Ethicalsuperstore.com you can also find activist kits containing Fairtrade product samples from selected companies.
I’m a student doing a project on Fairtrade. Can the Fairtrade Foundation send me information?
 
While we are very pleased that so many students produce dissertations and projects on various aspects of Fairtrade, limited time and resources make it impossible for us to reply to requests like this, or to agree to individual interviews or respond to personal questionnaires. For school and undergraduate student projects, we have put as much information on our website to enable you to find answers to most questions we are asked as part of these projects. In particular, try visiting the the Resources and Producers section of the website and Fairtrade Schools section.
How do I visit a Fairtrade producer group?
 

Fairtrade International (FLO) has told us that farmers and workers groups are receiving increasing numbers of requests to host visits from the general public. Many groups regret that they are unable to host visits because of their lack of resources and the disruption caused to their work. If there is a clear and definite positive outcome for the producer organisation such as media coverage or project funding arising from a visit, we would be happy to discuss your needs - please get in touch.

A growing number of Fairtrade certified producer groups are diversifying into tourism as an alternative source of income. They include:


Africa

  • South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia: The PASEO Programme helps farmers develop tourism as an additional source of income. The programme has three initial tours with more to follow: Orange Tour to Zebediele Citrus Estate in Limpopo Province, South Africa,Coffee Tour to Kilimanjaro Native Co-operative Union (KNCU) in Tanzania and Coffee Tour to Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union in Ethiopia
  • Tanzania: Kahawa Shamba means ‘Coffee Farm’ in Swahili. Set in the beautiful foothills of Kilimanjaro, on a ridge overlooking the Weruweru Gorge, Kahawa Shamba is a community-based project half-owned by KNCU, a Fairtrade certified coffee co-operative.  The project was implemented to bring in extra income via tourism to the small-scale coffee farmers in the area and was developed by Tribes along with partners Cafédirect, the charity Twin and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID).
Asia

Central and South America

  • Nicaragua: Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign organises study tours including visits to Fairtrade coffee producer groups.
  • Costa Rica:  Coope Santa Elena is one of nine coffee co-operatives that are members of the Coocafe Co-operative Union. They have a visitor programme and support local study tours.
  • Ecuador: El Guabo Banana Growers’ Co-operative. ‘The real Ecuador experience. An opportunity to meet local people, learn about Fairtrade and organic banana production and to experience real life at the plantation.’ Email: marco.valle@asoguabo.com.ec Telephone:+593(0)9 432 7740.
  • Mexico: US coffee company Higher Grounds Trading Co. organises customised tours to visit Fairtrade coffee co-ops in Chiapas.
  • Belize: The Toledo Ecotourism Association runs guesthouses and walks in small communities where farmers sell their cocoa under Fairtrade terms.
All countries

  • Traidcraft organises ‘People to People Tours’ that include visits to their fair trade producer partners.
Please note that the Fairtrade Foundation claims no responsibility for these independent projects.