You may have heard about Fair Trade USA, but what do you really know about them? It's a nonprofit and the leading certifier of Fair Trade products in North America. The organization promotes sustainable livelihoods for small producers and workers in the agriculture, fishing, apparel and home goods industries.
Fair Trade-certified products can be found in more than 6,000 U.S. retailers, but the certification process for each product, and the standards to which its producers are held, differ greatly.
Here's a closer look at the certification process and some of the standards the organization expects their producers to uphold.
What it means to become Fair Trade certified
Fair Trade certification requires companies to pass routine, rigorous evaluations by third-party auditors that track transactions along the supply chain between more than 1,200 companies and nearly 500 producer organizations. Becoming Fair Trade certified allows businesses the opportunity to compete in international markets and, over time, can expand their company.
Certified entities can sell their products with the Fair Trade Certified seal, and a percentage of the profits, called the Fair Trade Premium, goes back to the producers, farmers, and workers to promote sustainable incomes and safe working conditions.
For consumers, the seal lets them know that the products they purchase meet the Fair Trade's exacting standards and requirements while also making a positive difference in the world.
An overview of the certification process
A business can apply to become Fair Trade certified by filling out an online application form that asks for information about you and your company, including:
- Your company's name, the name of your parent company (if applicable), and your contact information
- The category that best describes your company and/or the product you'd like to certify (apparel and home goods, coffee, consumer packaged goods, produce, seafood or other)
- Your company's role – brand holder, importer, manufacturer or retailer
After you submit your application, a Fair Trade representative will contact and work with you to register your company for certification and, if applicable, to get your product and your proposed Fair Trade Certified packaging approved.
Once your company is certified, the Fair Trade holds its producers to very exacting standards, and because certification is a continuous process, businesses must adhere to those standards to maintain their certification.
The purpose of Fair Trade producer standards
Fair Trade USA creates their standards to protect the workers as well as the environment and regularly reviews them to ensure they're providing maximum value to producers and workers while still remaining practical for businesses to uphold.
These standards encompass sustainable prices and wages, safe working conditions, biodiversity, sustainable production as well as how the Fair Trade Premium is allocated.