What is Fair Trade and Why Should I Care?

Fair Trade can be an overwhelming topic. With the many different labels and the population at large being unsure and uneducated about labor trafficking and the processes of items being classified as Fair Trade it can be easier to put buying fair trade at the bottom of the proverbial to do list. We get it.

With all of that being said, the purpose of this post and the ones that follow are to empower you with education. Not to give you another “to do” but to show you that buying fair doesn’t have to be an expensive burden and an  “I should” but “I can’t” because  “I don’t” mentality. Instead buying fair trade can be liberating.

Some questions arise when we begin to talk about buying fair trade. “What do all the labels mean?” or “How can I trust that a label really is providing what I assume fair trade to mean?” We hope the information begins to help you with the misgivings that you may have when it comes to purchasing fair trade items.

The picture below shows what goes into something being fair trade certified. Then you will find the list of the labels that we see in stores on a day to day basis. You can click on the “learn more” links for each organization to see what their specific purposes and processes are.

You will notice that mostly these labels are food related. The simple answer for why that is, is that with food we can trace the supply line as it is often made up of one or a few ingredients. Coffee is made of coffee beans. There is a process with things like coffee to determine ethical and sustainable practices and while some may argue this process isn’t perfect, we are thankful that there is a process and a discussion that has been started. (You can learn more about the history of coffee here.)

Much of this information is taken from Fair Trade Winds “Guide to Fair-trade” I highly recommend that once you have digested this basic information you click over there and look more deeply at the certifications and accountability measures for each label.

Fair Trade International

Their mission:

to connect disadvantaged producers and consumers, promote fairer trading conditions and empower producers to combat poverty, strengthen their position and take more control over their lives.

Fairtrade International believes that there can be sustainable development that benefits the world’s poorest if trade is equitable and has transparency.

Learn More about Fair Trade International and the Label Here. 


Fair Trade USA

Their mission:

to enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth.

Fair Trade USA envisions a world where conscious consumers can achieve a “Fair Trade Lifestyle” and be able to shop ethically in all product categories. They see fair trade not just as a market, but as a social movement that offers real choice to consumers and real change to farmers and workers.

Learn More about Fair Trade USA Label and Certification here. 


Fair For Life

Their Mission:

to ensure fair and positive relations between producers and their cooperatives or contracting companies, between workers and their employer, between sellers and buyers on the world market while at the same time ensuring performance of standards.

Fair for Life’s certification system is based on a non product-specified standard. Most food and non-food commodities alike, including raw materials to the finished product can be certified. This is perhaps where Fair for Life differs the most from other certifications. Every step of production can be certified, including producers, manufacturers and traders, whereas other certifiers simply certify the finished product or only a couple steps of the production.

Another distinguishing aspect of Fair for Life is that they also certify entire companies. No other certifier does this. So far there are only a handful, but it shows an impressive dedication to prioritizing transparency in business at all levels. You can find out more under “Company Certification” on their website.

Learn more about Fair For Life, the label and certification process here. 



Our mission is to create a world where sustainable farming is the norm. Sustainable farming helps farmers, workers and their families to fulfill their ambitions and contributes to safeguard the world’s resources, now and in the future.

*Specifically sustainable farming in relation to coffee, chocolate and tea.

Learn More about the UTZ label and certification process here. 

Equal Exchange


Equal Exchange is a worker–owned cooperative that has been leading the authentic Fair Trade movement and creating big change since 1986. We believe in a fair and honest trade system that empowers both farmers and consumers, and with your help, we are creating a more equitable, democratic, and sustainable world.

Learn more about Equal Exchange Here. 


This is only the beginning of the fair trade label conversation. We welcome questions! Ask them in the comments or on Facebook and we will write a post answering them to the best of our ability. Be looking for more fair posts in the near future and remember that you and I can make a difference in the fight against labor trafficking. Join our Fair Project by taking The Fair Pledge and committing to purchase ONE thing for ONE month fair trade. You won’t regret it!

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