What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade or Fairtrade?
Fair Trade (also known as "fair trade" or "fairly traded") refers to the broader concept of fairness and decency in the marketplace, whereas "Fairtrade" refers to the specific Fair Trade certification system run by Fairtrade International (FLO) and its members, including Fairtrade Canada.
When speaking generally about the concept, it's best to use "fair trade". When speaking specifically about the FLO system, use "Fairtrade" ("Fairtrade certified products", "Fairtrade certification standards", etc).
Fair Trade is a different way of doing business. It's about making principles of fairness and decency mean something in the marketplace.
It seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy - to ensure the farmers and artisans behind those products get a better deal. Most often this is understood to mean better prices for producers, but it often means longer-term and more meaningful trading relationships as well.
For consumers and businesses, it's also about information. Fair Trade is a way for all of us to identify products that meet our values so we can make choices that have a positive impact on the world.
Photo: Eric St-Pierre
One Size Fits All?
How this is done varies widely - how people practice Fair Trade is largely determined by how they understand the problems it's meant to address.
For instance, Fairtrade Canada manages the Canadian side of an international system that sets standards defining what Fair Trade products are, and provides Canadians with a way to know whether those standards have been met. The intent is to both bring clarity about Fair Trade and instill confidence in the public that it is not about empty promises.
However, neither Fairtrade Canada nor the international system it represents invented Fair Trade, nor are its standards the only way it should be understood. Even companies who meet our standards and whose products carry our certification mark often approach Fair Trade differently, and it's up to you as an individual to decide which approach makes the most sense to you.
Ultimately, Fair Trade appeals to our sense of fairness and common decency, and applies those values to the marketplace. It allows us to make a positive difference in the world just by the products we choose to buy.
A much larger community
Beyond certification bodies like Fairtrade Canada, producers, and the companies that sell their products, there is a much larger Fair Trade community. This community certainly includes all of these actors, but it also includes individual citizens, schools, academics, unions, activists, religious organizations, and more, all unified in their desire to make the world a better place and all bringing their own ideas and perspectives to the table.
To reflect this diversity, this website is meant to do two things. First, it's meant to explain what Fairtrade certification is and what Fairtrade Canada does. Second, it's meant to provide a platform for people (including you) to have their voices heard and to participate in a broad conversation about Fair Trade and how we can make it better.