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Should Fair Trade Labels Differentiate Between Various Standards?

by Jeff Goldman

coffee_displayFor the most part, one Fair Trade product label is prominent in N. America, the one licensed by TransFair USA.  Anytime we simplify complex issues into one brief message, lots of information gets lost in translation.  In Fair Trade, the lost information includes the extent of a company’s commitment to Fair Trade.  For example, Equal Exchange sells close to 100% of its products as FT, whereas Dunkin’ Donuts something less than 5%.  Other lost information includes what exact standards of FT are practiced in producing the labeled good.  For example, members of the Fair Trade Federation are required to be open to public accountability, whereas those using the Fair Trade Certified label are not.  Would consumers care enough to get this kind of information from a product or company label or mark?

Some people would argue that it gets too confusing, in an already crowded market of socially responsible labels.  Others would argue that any group of labels would still leave out other important information.  Another group would say that there are just too many ways to measure the benefits of Fair Trade to neatly identify high, medium and lower standards.  Any gold standard, and regular standard, would have lots of different definitions.

So, how do we balance the benefits of distinguishing between good, better and best with the desire for efficiency, simplicity and practicality of Fair Trade choices and labels?


  1. Courtney

    I do agree that a lot of information gets lost when it is all simplified into one label, but I don’t think that every specific detail should be listed on the packaging of a product. Consumers should not be “spoonfed” this information. They need to play a larger role and take more responsibility in their purchasing decisions, especially with the rise of marketing deception that we see today. Consumers are the ones holding the power. People should recognize this, take charge and research products and companies before making purchases.

  2. Jeff Goldman

    Yes, Courtney, consumers should be active in research before making decisions. However, people are so stretched on time, with more and more things to do for both fun and business, that a lot could be gained by saving them time and effort. I observe that corporations exploit how to make money off customers by asking for more of their time in accessing discounts and special offers (frequent flyer, cable companies, etc.). I question how many consumers care to keep up with complex issues regarding Fair Trade, as opposed to having choices simplified (perhaps spoon fed) to them.

  3. Clara James

    Nice post! I think that labels are the prominent factor of products. Because many customer know the product with their label, if same label is pasted on different product then the consumer will confused. So whenever a product is launched in market its copyrights should be maintained.

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