What Exactly Is Fair Trade? (Updated)

Update: A reader brought this New York Times article to my attention and I felt it was important to share with all of you in the interest of making informed food and shopping choices. A quick summary is that Fair Trade USA is separating from Fair Trade International and changing some of the practices/standards. Their position is that they are making fair trade available to all and will be able to help more people (putting it very simply). Critics believe it waters down the overall standards and quality of the fair trade certification.  They’re also concerned that it will be harder for small farms to compete because large farms that previously did not qualify for the certification will offer businesses a new option for purchasing.

My take on it – I’m not going to pretend to understand all the economies at play in what seems to be a messy and complicated issue. I think Fair Trade has a lot of redeeming values and I will continue to look for the label from Fair Trade USA and Fair Trade International. But I’ll also remember that one label doesn’t tell me everything. I need to look for the asterisk and continue to read ingredients. When it comes to food, unfortunately, we can’t trust any one organization to tell us what’s best for us. That’s a decision we have to make on our own. ————————–

Original Post:

Honestly, I’ve often wondered that myself, but never took the time to look into it. I had a basic understanding, but not enough so that I felt incentivized to look for the fair trade label on products I was purchasing. If it was there, bonus. But I really wasn’t making a habit of looking for it.

Lat month, I was approached by Fair Trade USA to share information about the label and some of the products that carry it. So I went in search of a better understanding and here’s what I learned about the global impact of Fair Trade and the products that make it possible. (This will be helpful in shopping and entering to win the giveaway at the end of this post) :)

  1. Fair Trade Certified products help improve lives and protect the environment.
  2. Shopping for Fair Trade Certified products means families worldwide earn fair wages and receive important life benefits like health care, education and support for environmental protection initiatives.
  3. The use of genetically modified organisms are banned in Fair Trade Certified products.
  4. The Fair Trade Certification helps shoppers quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner.
  5. Not all Fair Trade Certified products are 100% organic, but organic practices are encouraged.
  6. The prices may seem higher than mass-produced brands, but they are competitive with other gourmet, high-quality products on the market.
You can find a comprehensive list of Fair Trade Certified products here.
Now for the giveaway! Here’s a list of the cool products that were generously donated by the participating brands.
How do you win? Simply follow the instructions in the rafflecopter box below to earn multiple entries. The giveaway begins at 12:00 a.m. EST on October 10, 2012 and ends at 12:00 a.m. EST on October, 15, 2012. The winner will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. The Fair Trade prize pack will be shipped out no later than  October 22, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck! Help us spread the message that Every Purchase Matters.  Look for this logo when shopping this month.

Fair Trade USA is a non-profit, but they don’t do charity. Instead, they actually teach disadvantaged communities how to use the free market to their advantage. They provided the information and facilitated the collection of giveaway items from the participating brands. I was not financially compensated for this post and all opinions are my own. 

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  1. You might find this New York Times article interesting, Fair Trade USA is proposing to give its stamp of approval to large plantations and “proposing to place its seal on products with as little as 10 percent fair trade ingredients, compared with a minimum of 20 percent required in other countries.”


  2. This looks great! Thanks for the chance to win! :) We already use a lot of fair trade products, but I’m thinking the lip tint would be a great trade for me.

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