Uphold the Integrity of Fair Trade

What’s Fair Trade?

The Fair Trade movement emerged as a way to empower small farmers and producers of commodities such as coffee, tea, artisan crafts and sugar. An overwhelming majority of the world’s producers of commodities such as coffee and sugar are small-scale farmers, who often receive substantially low sums for their products and have trouble gaining market access when pinned against large producers. Furthermore, these industries are notorious for harsh working conditionsforced labor, long hours, little to no safety standards, and minimal pay. In theory, Fair Trade certified products mean that the producer receives a premium above market value for their product and undergoes a certification process to ensure fair farming practices. While the Fair Trade movement progressed through the 1990s, low integrity of certifiers has transformed Fair Trade into a marketing ploy rather than a way to empower small farmers and producers. Those profiting off of Fair Trade labels are the certified businesses and the certifiers; and farmers and activists have spoken out against this.

What’s fundamentally wrong with Fair Trade?


The Fairtrade system of certification has no guarantee of transparent, independent, consistent monitoring.

Charity Complex

Fair Trade often contradicts one of our fundamental values, which is fostering “Solidarity, not Charity”. By promoting the flawed system of “voting with your dollar”, Fair Trade creates a charity complex that does more to benefit the conscience of the consumer than it does to create living wages for producers. Furthermore, because of their exorbitant premiums (of which a shockingly small amount goes back to the producer), Fair Trade products are only accessible to individuals with a certain level of disposable income.

How are large certifiers destroying the Fair Trade movement?

Workers and producers, groups like United Students for Fair Trade, many businesses, and other supporters of the Fair Trade movement have publicly criticized and withdrawn support from TransFair/Fair Trade USA due to this large certifier’s overall weakening of the fair trade movement. Specifically, Transfair has removed itself from the Fair Labelling Organization, lowered Fair Trade sourcing requirements to 11% per product, and begun certifying plantations- a move that could hurt small producers while overlooking the many injustices occurring in plantations. Furthermore, Fair Trade’s move into the apparel market has been of a concern, seriously undermining the progress the anti-sweatshop movement has made in the past several decades.

The inability of certifiers to ensure living wages, freedom of association, and dignified work stems from a structural issue within fair trade. While many are working to rebuild the system to a just one; many certifiers are simply labelling products that have little positive impact for working families in order to profit. We hope to see a movement emerge that incorporates true accountability to small producers of the world: boards that are independent from the interest and funding of businesses- a movement led by farmers, producers, workers, activists,and academics.

Where can I find out more about this?

Mexican Farmers Speak Against Fair Trade:

Who Owns Fair Trade?

Aiding and Abetting: How Unaccountable Fair Trade Certifiers are Destroying Workers’ Rights:

Fair Trade companies denounce Fair Trade USA/TransFair:

Equal Exchange denounces TransFair:

How Certification is Hurting Farmers:

WTFO’s response Fair Trade USA leaving FLO:

United Students for Fair Trade withdraws support from TransFair: