What Does Fairtrade Certification Really Mean?

Thursday, 1 August 2019 10:26:00 am Pacific/Auckland

Fairtrade certification is about better prices, decent working conditions, sustainability, and fairer terms of trade for farmers and workers. We find out more about what goes into Fairtrade certification from our friends at Fairtrade ANZ.

By requiring companies to pay fair and sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which often discriminates against the poorest, most marginalised producers. 

Fairtrade offers you the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices, you can get farmers in developing countries a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their future and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.

What makes Fairtrade unique and different from other ethical claims & certification marks?

Fairtrade is the only comprehensive certification and producer empowerment system globally that guarantees producers a minimum price.

Fairtrade is an alternative approach that is based on partnership; one between those who grow our food and those who consume it. Fairtrade’s global system is 50 percent owned by producers representing farmer and worker organisations. 

With an equal voice, producers have a say in decision-making within the General Assembly and constitute half of Fairtrade International’s Board of Directors. They are involved in decisions on overall strategy, use of resources and setting prices, premiums and standards.

The Fairtrade Mark shows you that the Fairtrade ingredients in the product have been produced by small-scale farmer organisations or plantations that meet internationally agreed Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards, and have been subject to rigorous independent auditing.

How do farmers become certified?

A group of individual producers, informally or formally organised, growing a Fairtrade certifiable crop, commits to working together either to form a producer organisation or to strengthen and to develop its existing organisation and business through the Fairtrade development model and to improve the quality, productivity, and consistency of their product. 

They produce a product for which there is expressed demand in the Fairtrade market and demonstrate their commitment through sustained interest and participation in Fairtrade activities, including workshops, meetings, and regular communication, as well as through their willingness to comply with the Fairtrade Standards.

What are the benefits that Fairtrade certification provides to farmers and workers?

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 than the minimum price, then producers should receive the market price. Producers and traders can also negotiate higher prices on the basis of quality and other attributes.

This acts as a vital safety net for farmers and workers and protects them from fluctuations in the market prices of the products they grow for a living. Fairtrade is the only certification scheme that offers this unique minimum price protection for farmers.

Over and above the Fairtrade Minimum Price, the Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money which goes into a communal fund for farmers and workers to use – as they see fit - to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. 

Producers determine democratically what is most important to them; whether this is education or healthcare for their children, improving their businesses or building vital infrastructure such as roads and bridges for their community.

Climate change

Through projects such as reforestation or energy-efficient cookstoves, vulnerable communities can reduce emissions while also strengthening themselves against the effects of climate change. Investment of the Fairtrade Premium enables producers to implement environmental protection programmes which contribute to the range of solutions needed to address climate change and ultimately benefit us all. And the Fairtrade Standards ensure producers prioritise the preservation of the environment during the production process, through banning the use of harmful chemicals and minimising water waste.

Gender equality

Fairtrade has incorporated work towards achieving gender equality as part of its standards for almost three decades. Supporting women to access and invest the Fairtrade Premium in programs like childcare or training can make a real difference. 

Fairtrade requires that organisations identify disadvantaged, vulnerable or minority groups to protect their rights and proactively improve their economic and social standing. A producer organisation that doesn’t support equality cannot be Fairtrade certified.

Kiwi consumers trust Fairtrade

The rigour and transparency of the Fairtrade system is recognised by shoppers in New Zealand.

According to Colmar Brunton's Better Futures 2019 report, Fairtrade is number one on the list of the ‘Top 10 recognized brands strongly endorsed for their sustainability’. 

This is a very valuable recognition in times of 'greenwashing' when 83% of Kiwis are confused about the way businesses talk about their commitment to sustainability.


-Article by Fairtrade ANZ / Photography by Josh Griggs Fairtrade ANZ

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