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What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system. Fair trade only refers to products that are made in the global South and is a tool for alleviation of poverty in the global South. Fair trade businesses partner with farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized in finding markets and customers for their goods. 

Fair Trade has 10 key principles to achieve these goals:

  1. Long-Term Direct Trading Relationships
  2. Payment of Fair Prices
  3. No Child, Forced or Otherwise Exploited Labor
  4. Workplace Non-Discrimination, Gender Equity, and Freedom of Association
  5. Democratic & Transparent Organizations
  6. Safe Working Conditions & Reasonable Work Hours
  7. Investment in Community Development Projects
  8. Environmental Sustainability
  9. Traceability and Transparency
  10. FTF Code of Practice

How did it all start?

Fair Trade began in 1946, when Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer for Mennonite Central Committee, visited a sewing class in Puerto Rico. She witnessed the talent the women had for creating beautiful lace but also the extreme poverty in which they lived, despite their dedication to work. She began carrying their pieces back to the United States to sell and returned the money back to these groups directly. As Fair Trade has grown over the past 60+ years, it has incorporated stable principles that each fair trade company agrees to. 

Fair Trade is not a charity business model. Rather, it assures the artisans and producers in developing countries are paid a fair price for their work. Each fair trade company designs and bases their supply chain on these fair trade principles. These trading partnerships create reciprocal benefits and mutual respect.

For the artisans and producers, fair trade offers 4 important benefits: 

  • Stable Prices that cover the cost of sustainable production
  • Market Access that enables buyers to trade with producers who would otherwise be excluded from the market
  • Partnership between the producer and company
  • Empowerment of Producers to develop knowledge and increase skills to gain access to greater opportunity

Fair trade is ethical and sustainable fashion made in a manner respectful of all those at all levels involved in our international trade system. If you care about how the ways that products you buy are produced, let your dollars follow your values and buy fair trade.

We support fair trade and we hope you do too!

Information compiled from WFTO, FLO International, Fair Trade Federation, Abby Alley.com, FairWorldProject.org