ftrn.org is an information hub designed to grow the fair trade movement. together, we can create a market that values the people who make the food we eat and the goods we use.

Key Issues in Fair Trade

TIP: If a story moves you, use the comment feature for that story to write a response. Dialogue is a key to growing the movement!

Any social movement and international commerce system has its controversies, challenges, and key issues. This section, in part, attempts to foster thoughtful discussion and debate on complex, multi-faceted issues within Fair Trade.

FTRN to Close at End of May

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The staff and Board announce that Fair Trade Resource Network will be shutting down as of May 31, 2014. While we are disappointed that we won’t be able to advance Fair Trade from our own organization, we commit to supporting Fair Trade through other organizations and activities. We are proud of all that FTRN has accomplished over 15 years, in partnership with you, allied organizations, and thousands of individuals.

The main reason we are closing is that FTRN has been unable to attract sustainable funding. A relatively small movement has become quite fragmented in recent years, making it very difficult to sustain an inclusive, umbrella Fair Trade education & advocacy organization. We hope that by closing, we free up resources, and space, for Fair Trade interests to reassess, strengthen and grow.

We are proud of the work that FTRN has done over the years to provide resources to the movement and support all systems in Fair Trade. Along with other partners, we have seen growth and diversification in Fair Trade. We appreciate the support and advocacy of all of our supporters and want to encourage all of you to stay engaged with the movement. To that point, below is a list of organizations, active in Fair Trade education and advocacy, that we recommend you follow, or participate with, to continue the mission of making Fair Trade the rule rather than the exception.

Canadian Fair Trade Network

Catholic Relief Services and other faith-based organizations

Fair Trade Campaigns

Fair Trade Federation

Fair World Project

Green America

Certifiers (Fair Trade USA, Fairtrade America, Fair for Life, etc.)

FTRN, in partnership with tens of thousands of individuals, and hundreds of organizations, has achieved a lot with little resources, including:

–          Coordinating and supporting World Fair Trade Day events that have grown to include over 100,000 people at over 1000 events across N. America.

–          Building the premiere website, FTRN.org, for inclusive Fair Trade education, with unique visitors increasing every year to around 100,000.

–          Co-hosting with partners all major movement conferences and summits in the U.S., like Fair Trade Futures (over 750 people in 2011 and 2006), and the Fair & Alternative Trade Alliance Summit in 2012 (with 50 leaders attending).

–          Creating unique educational resources, like the annual wall calendar, photo contest, webinars about key issues, a definitive booklet overview of Fair Trade, the only free Power Point show overview, and more, all used by thousands of people.

We will attempt to pass along any interesting materials and assets to partner organizations.

We accomplished these successes with critical support, partnership, funding and participation of businesses, nonprofits, certifiers, faith groups, students, academics and individual advocates. We wholeheartedly extend our deep appreciation for those people who teamed up with FTRN over the years.

Fair Trade remains a deeply inspiring concept. Let’s commit ourselves to further advancing Fair Trade principles in other ways, for the benefit of marginalized producers!

FWP Analysis Compares Fair Trade & Ecosocial Certifications on How Committed Brands Are Distinguished

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Fair World Project (FWP) has published some analysis on how well different Fair Trade and eco-social seals distinguish committed brands (that is brands that are committed to building a just economy in all policies and practices) from conventional brands (that is brands that offer some certified products or ingredients but in other supply chains and practices show a lack of commitment to Fair Trade principles). The analysis currently compares 7 certifications across 8 questions about a brand’s practices throughout all its supply chains, company history, minimum percentage requirements for multi-ingredient products, focus on small producers, and more.

More at FWP post

Fairtrade International Launches Commodity Sourcing Program

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Fairtrade International recently announced the first commitments to its new commodity sourcing model. Rather than focusing on all the ingredients for a multi-ingredient final product, Fairtrade Sourcing Programs means companies can now make big commitments to use Fairtrade cocoa, sugar or cotton across product ranges or even their whole business. Already at launch nine companies have signed on to increase their Fairtrade purchases starting with initial 2014 volumes set to deliver $1.2m in additional Fairtrade Premium to cocoa farmers by the end of this year.

The associated label, shown at left for cocoa ingredients, looks somewhat different than the FAIRTRADE product label,  under which all commercially available ingredients in a multi-ingredient final product that could be FAIRTRADE must be FAIRTRADE. The U.S. market, administered by Fairtrade America, is not presently allowing use of the label for Fairtrade Sourcing Programs.

Mars and major German, Swiss and Japanese retailers and brands were the first to make serious commitments to cocoa farmers under Fairtrade’s new commodity sourcing model. Swiss company Switcher was also announced recently as the first to pioneer the new approach in cotton.

The early commitments alone will increase Fairtrade cocoa sales sixfold in Germany in 2014 and deliver 14% growth to Fairtrade cocoa farmers worldwide, by close to 6000 metric tonnes (MT). Many of these companies have set multi-year growth targets so Fairtrade cocoa farmers will benefit from year-on-year increases to overall volumes of cocoa sales.

More at Fairtrade International post

FWP Campaign Asks Brands Participating in Fair Trade to Support Fair Trade Policies

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Fair World Project, an advocacy program of Organic Consumers Association, is inviting Fair Trade supporters to ask Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Starbucks, and Honest Tea to support fair trade policies in government. With current developments heading towards passage of international free trade deals such as Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), FWP believes the companies should ensure that their influence is used to demand fair and transparent trade policies that benefit farmers and workers.

More at FWP campaign

Fair for Life Announces Changes to Its Certification

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“Fair for Life” Certification announced changes to part of its certification program after a revision process ended in December 2013. The changes apply to the certification’s Labelling & Control standards, and to its Handling Operations standards.

More at Fair for Life post

Fairtrade International Makes Major Changes to Strengthen Hired Worker Standards

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Fairtrade International has overhauled its Fairtrade Standard for Hired Labor to strengthen the position of workers in Fairtrade certified plantations and estates producing tea, bananas and other fruit, cut flowers, herbs, vegetables and sports ball factories. The newly revised standard includes detailed requirements to guarantee workers’ right to freely organize and collectively bargain. Certified producer companies must not only declare this right publically to workers, but allow unions to meet with workers and offer to engage in a collective agreement process with worker representatives if there is none in place.

Fairtrade International is also introducing a new methodology to set living wage benchmarks and a clear process for plantations to progress towards a living wage. The new methodology has been developed and benchmarks have already been set in some areas. Fairtrade International is now in the process of calculating rural living wage benchmarks for each region with Fairtrade certified plantations.

More at Fairtrade International post

Canada Fair Trade Movement Strengthens Its Organization at Annual Conference

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The Canadian Fair Trade Network (CFTN) continued its inspiring developments in organizing and collaborating across the country’s Fair Trade community. The 2014 CFTN National Conference brought over 100 people together for 3 days in January in Toronto. Attendees focused on: sharing business perspectives in fair trade; bringing together key advocates, business representatives, academics, students and certifiers from across the movement; conducting the CFTN Annual General Meeting and vision and strategy session; hosting a Fair Trade Expo with around 15 vendors; collaborating across Fair Trade Towns, Schools, and Campuses; and advocate skill building and community engagement.

FTRN strongly believes that the fragmented and under-resourced U.S. Fair Trade community would achieve a lot more if it were organized and collaborating like Canada’s movement.

More at CFTN Conference

Certification Comparison Tool Published by FWP

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An online tool was recently published to compare some aspects of certification programs for Fair Trade and ecosocial labels in the U.S. and Canada markets. The tool, published by Fair World Project (FWP), a program of Organic Consumers Association, currently compares 6 certifications across 8 criteria. The tool presents both objective factors as well as FWP’s opinions on how well each label meets FWP’s expectations.

The tool focuses on certification policies related to multi-ingredient products, so doesn’t presently address scores of other criteria on how labels compare. The tool currently compares Fair Trade USA’s “Fair Trade Certified”, Fairtrade America’s FAIRTRADE, IMO’s “Fair for Life”, Ecocert, UTZ Certified, and Rainforest Alliance Certified, and is updated as of November 2013.

More at FWP online tool

First Fair Trade Shoe Factory Produces Footwear Available in N. America

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The first-ever Fair Trade certification for a shoe factory was announced recently. A Canadian company, Oliberté, imports the shoes from a factory in Ethiopia that is certified by Fair Trade USA.

Oliberté projects sales in 2013 will be about $1.2 million and are expected to grow to $2 million next year. As a Fair Trade buyer, Oliberté will be required to start contributing 5% of its purchases to a community fund for employees at the factory. That could work out to about $2,500 in October alone, when Oliberté is scheduled to ship 2,300 pairs of shoes to retailers such as Town Shoes in Canada.

More at Toronto Star post

“Fair for Life” Certification Now Lists All Available Products on Website

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Institute for Marketecology (IMO) “Fair for Life” certification program now publicly lists all its available certified products, and which organizations trade them. There are more than 500 certified products in food, body care and other categories.

Also on the website, visitors can still see the evaluation score in 5 main criteria for each trading organization. These evaluation results are the only publicly available ones from any certifiers in Fair Trade.

More at “Fair for Life” product list