Navigating Fair Trade Product Labels

Aleah June 12, 2018

When navigating the world of conscious consumerism, all the different labels can be a bit confusing if not overwhelming. As a consumer, it’s important to know what these labels mean. When I first found myself interested in Fair Trade and conscious consumerism, I kept thinking to myself, “What do the different certifications mean? Do I pick this chocolate because it has THIS certification or do I pick that chocolate because it has THAT certification? What’s the difference?

I found myself in the health section of the grocery store juggling three different items while trying to thumb through the websites for the various certifications on my smartphone. “How natural is natural? What does organic mean in the United States? Do GMOs actually matter?” I knew I couldn’t answer all of those questions that day but I wanted to start somewhere. Experiences like these heightened my interest in Fair Trade throughout college. The more I learned and challenged myself to be informed, the more confident I felt each time I went to the store.

Over time, my knowledge of Fair Trade and ability to understand the various labels helped inspire me to continue working with Fair Trade as a Fair Trade Campaigns Fellow. It gave me the opportunity to learn even more about what Fair Trade actually means and how to advocate for it.

I encourage everyone to look into the certifications of their products to truly understand the impact they have. Below, I’ve shared concise reviews of the four certifications that Fair Trade Campaigns recognizes. If you’re new to conscious consumerism, then this is a great place to start!

Fair Trade USA

Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization that certifies Fair Trade products according to rigorous social, economic and environmental standards. They are the largest third party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S. Their mission statement says, “Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, fishermen, consumers, industry, and the earth. We achieve our mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products.”
Browse Fair Trade USA products.

Fairtrade America

Fairtrade America is a nonprofit organization associated with Fairtrade International, abiding by the Fairtrade International standards. They help grow the demand for Fair Trade products in the U.S. and support producer organizations around the world. Fairtrade America raises awareness for developing countries and supports efforts to make trade fair. Fairtrade America describes themselves as “a global movement for change…we work directly with companies, consumers and campaigners to secure a better deal for farmers and workers.”
Browse Fairtrade America products.

Fair Trade Federation

Fair Trade Federation is a membership organization, comprised of brands and companies that sell the majority of their products under Fair Trade terms. They describe themselves as “the trade association that strengthens and promotes North American organizations fully committed to fair trade.” They work primarily with companies and brands selling artisan products and crafts. Some of the principles and practices that the Fair Trade Federation promotes include advance payments for artisans and farmers, long term relationships, and commitment to the people behind the products – collectively encompassed under 360° Fair Trade.
Browse Fair Trade Federation members.

Fair for Life

Fair for Life conducts certifications for Fair Trade and responsible supply chains. Their certification guarantees long-term partnerships, fair prices, distribution of added value all along the supply chain, funding projects with collective decision-making, and advocacy and promotion of Fair Trade. Fair for Life describes their practice as a unique certification system stating, “social accountability and fair trade have become important assurances or requirements in the global marketplace.”
Browse Fair for Life companies.

Rest easy consumer!

If you see any of these four labels there is a promise of fair wages, environmental responsibility, social justice, and individual and community empowerment. I encourage you to keep exploring your options and take the time to discover the meaning behind the labels on the products you buy.

Want some ideas of commonly found Fair Trade products and an easy to share overview of these four labels? Check out Fair Trade Campaign’s Fair Trade Product List.


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