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Intro to Fair Trade



Stay connected:

  1. Basicsflyers on beginner topics
  2. Overview of Fair Trade in North America – Power Point show free to download and customize
  3. More About Fair Trade questions & answers on a few more beginner topics
  4. Intermediate Topics - books, films, webinars and more resources to learn about Fair Trade

Basics of Fair Trade


Handout Sheets

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Download and copy these FREE 1-5 page handouts:

What is Fair Trade? | History of Fair Trade

Identifying Fair Trade Products

Free Trade Is Not Fair Trade | Producer Stories

Top 10 Reasons to Buy Fair Trade

How to Get More Involved in Fair Trade

North America Fair Trade Movement: Roles & Functions, August 2012

Overview of Fair Trade in North America

Use or customize the only free Power Point show available on an overview of Fair Trade in N. America.

Power Point Presentation


Download FREE Power Point file by clicking here
Updated September 2013 – Power Point presentation of an introduction to Fair Trade in N. America. The file is free to download and view. 37 slides are shown in a 7-minute show, free to open as Read-Only file, size 8.8 MB. Get a copy of the booklet, or PDF file, to access the password (at the bottom the Table of Contents) to edit and copy the Power Point file. Please attribute proper credit to FTRN and others if you create a new file.

Download show as PDF file

More About Fair Trade

What does “fair” really mean?

The word “fair” can mean a lot of different things to different people. Fair Trade is about more than just paying a fair wage. It means that trading partnerships are based on reciprocal benefits and mutual respect; that prices paid to producers reflect the work they do; that workers have the right to organize; that national health, safety, and wage laws are enforced; and that products are environmentally sustainable and conserve natural resources.

What Fair Trade products are available?
In North America, there are many Fair Trade craft products available–decorative home accessories, jewelry, clothing, toys, etc. Fairly traded coffee, tea, and chocolate are also widely available, as well as these goods: bananas, oranges, avocados, wine, olive oil, sugar, flowers, body care items, spices, rice, sports balls, and more.

How do I know that a product is Fair Trade?
Some Fair Trade products, like coffee and chocolate, are third-party certified Fair Trade and carry a label or “seal.”  Some brands are Fair Trade Organizations, while others may practice Fair Trade with only a small share of their products. Non-certified products, that are still Fair Trade, are sold by Fair Trade Organizations, businesses approved by a third-party as fully committed to Fair Trade.

See Where to Buy Fair Trade page for more explanation and links.

Consumers in search of Fair Trade products have a vast array of products to choose from. Product labels, such as “Fair Trade Certified”, “Fair for Life Social & Fairtrade Certified”, and “FAIRTRADE” as well as membership in associations like Fair Trade Federation and World Fair Trade Organization, help identify Fair Trade products that are produced according to Fair Trade standards. Looking beyond the label to the trading relationship, consumers can identify Fair Trade standards that meet their values.

Do Fair Trade goods cost more than comparable non-Fair Trade goods?
Generally, fairly traded goods cost the same or a few percent more than similar quality, conventional goods. Fair Trade crafts don’t cost more than other goods because the large percentage taken by middle people is removed from the equation. The cost remains the same as traditionally traded goods; however, more of the sale price goes to producers.

In the case of agricultural goods, is the quality comparable to commercial products?
In some cases the quality is actually higher because Fair Traders factor in the environmental cost of production. For instance, in the case of coffee, fairly traded coffee is often organic and shade grown, which results in a higher quality coffee.

What is a fair wage?
Producers receive a fair wage when they are paid fairly for their products. This means that workers are paid at least that country’s minimum wage. Since the minimum wage is often not enough for basic survival, whenever feasible, workers are paid a higher wage approaching a living wage, which enables them to cover basic needs, including food, shelter, education and health care for their families. Paying fair wages does not necessarily mean that products cost the consumer more. Fair Trade Organizations bypass exploitative middle people and work directly with producers.

How much money (percent of sale price) do the artisans make?
Given the different regions of the world, production circumstances, and Fair Trade intermediaries involved in delivering a product to the consumer, it is difficult to say with certainty. What is certain is that Fair Traders are obliged not to exploit producers and to guarantee that the trading relationship is a true partnership, allowing all to make a fair profit margins.

Because Fair Trade sales are still low compared to other sectors in northern markets, is Fair Trade’s impact significant?
First, sales are no longer small: retail sales of Fair Trade items passed $7 billion worldwide in 2012, growing 20% over 2011. Sales in just the U.S. since 1998 have generated additional income paid to producers, beyond normal market rates, of $260 million. Further, for a Peruvian weaving cooperative making only a few hundred dollars a year, a $1,000 craft sale to a Fair Trade Organization is a significant increase in income. In some parts of the world, Fair Trade earnings are turned over to the community to improve quality of life. The money may fund a potable water system or provide health education or bring an adult literacy program to the community.

Why do Fair Trade Organizations support cooperative workplaces?
Cooperatives and producer associations provide a healthy alternative to large-scale manufacturing and sweatshop conditions, where unprotected workers earn below minimum wage and most of the profits flow to foreign investors and local elites who have little interest in ensuring the long term health of the communities in which they work. Fair Trade Organizations work primarily with small businesses, worker-owned and democratically run cooperatives and associations which bring significant benefits to workers and their communities. By banding together, workers are able to access credit, reduce raw material costs and establish higher and more just prices for their products. Workers earn a greater return on their labor, and profits are distributed more equitably and often reinvested in community projects such as health clinics, child care, education, and literacy training. Workers learn important leadership and organizing skills, enabling self-reliant grassroots-driven development.

How do Fair Trade Organizations offer financial support to producers?
Small-scale farmers and artisans in the developing world lack access to affordable financing, impeding their profitability. Fair Trade Organizations that buy products directly from producers often provide financial assistance either through direct loans, pre-payment, or by linking producers with sources of financing. Unlike many commercial importers who often wait 60-90 days before paying producers, many Fair Trade Organizations ensure pre-payment so that producers have sufficient funds to cover raw materials and basic needs during production.

How do Fair Trade Organizations offer technical support to producers?
Fair Trade Organizations provide critical technical assistance and support such as market information, organizational development and training in financial management. Unlike conventional importers, Fair Trade Organizations establish long term relationships with their producers and help them adapt production to changing trends.