The Fair Trade Industry
Fair Trade is growing in popularity as more North Americans start questioning where the products they buy come from, what they are made of, and if the purchase will make a difference in the world. Many small companies have started and grown exponentially, trying to fulfill the demand for fairly traded products. According to the World Fair Trade Organization (formerly known as IFAT), in 2006 its members’ sales amounted to $2.6 billion. There was an amazing 47% increase in 2007, with WFTO members’ sales amounting to over $3.62 billion. You can read more information about these global figures in the Fair Trade Labeling International’s annual reports. Similarly, in North America, Fair Trade Federation members’ sales added up to $160+ million in 2006.
There are several players that participate in this ever-growing industry:
Producers: these are the farmers and artisans that make the products or grow the coffee, cocoa or other produce. They can be an individual, a family or a cooperative.
Middlemen: while Fair Trade eliminates many of the middle-men, there are still wholesalers and retailers participating in the “value chain”. For example, a wholesaler can work in partnership with different producers, and sell these products to retailers, whose job is to educate consumers and make the products available to the public.
End customer: this is all of us who shop for ethically traded alternatives.
Overseers, promoters and certifying agencies
Apart from the apparent participants in the fair trade value chain, other third-party organizations exist to connect producers, middlemen and customers. They can also oversee fair trade companies and their practices, certify products, promote fair trade and educate the public about the movement. Here are some of the main organizations you need to know about:
|Fair Trade Federation||The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. The Federation is part of the global fair trade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty.|
|TransFair USA||TransFair USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States. They audit transactions between US companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source.|
|Fair Trade Resource Network||Founded in 1999, the Fair Trade Resource Network (FTRN) seeks to build a more just and sustainable world by gathering, developing, and disseminating educational resources about Fair Trade. FTRN is the only non-profit organization in the world focused exclusively on Fair Trade education, helping people to better understand the impact of their buying decisions.|
|Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International||Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder association involving 23 member organizations (Labelling Initiatives and Producer Networks), traders and external experts. The organization develops and reviews Fairtrade standards and provides support to Fairtrade Certified Producers by assisting them in gaining and maintaining Fairtrade certification and capitalizing on market opportunities.|
|World Fair Trade Organization (formerly IFAT)||The World Fair Trade Organization (formerly the International Fair Trade Association) is a global association created in 1989 of Fair trade producer cooperatives and associations, export marketing companies, importers, retailers, national, and regional fair trade networks and fair trade support organizations. In 2004 WFTO launched the FTO Mark which identifies registered Fair Trade Organizations (as opposed to the FLO system, which labels products).|
|Global Exchange||Global Exchange is an advocacy group and non-governmental organization, based in San Francisco, California. It was founded in 1988, and funds itself through memberships. Its stated aim is to promote human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice around the world. It has worked to increase public awareness of what it feels are the root causes of injustice, while also building international partnerships.|
|Project Hope and Fairness||A charitable organization dedicated to making the cocoa trade fair, and offering aid to African farmers for promoting sustainability.|