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What is Fair Trade?


In 1979, Traidcraft pioneered the Fair Trade movement in the UK. Most of the Fair Trade categories we recognise today -  Chocolate, coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine, rice, honey, charcoal, rubber exist because of Traidcraft's efforts. 


Fair trade, defined simply, is when products including food, drink and craft, are sourced through a fair supply chain, where small-scale farmers, producers and artisans are treated with dignity, respect and fairness. Fair trade is based on three, mutually-dependent principles: Partnerships, Price and Premium

Trading partnerships - with other producers and with retailers - give producers in the Global South the bargaining power to achieve better trading conditions for themselves

Fair trade agreements set the price for products such as food, drink, fashion and crafts, so that producers earn enough to cover the cost of production and have enough left over to invest in their farms and businesses. It’s not just about survival, it’s about improving year on year and building resilience.

On top of the agreed price, producers receive a "Fair Trade Premium”, that can be invested in healthcare, education and anything else they think will benefit their community.

Fair trade was created as an alternative way of doing business with the Global South. One that places the same importance on the interests of farmers and workers as it does on other commercial considerations. It also represents a solution to poverty and a model for development. 

Businesses like ours enable the sale of fairly traded goods and generate the cash that is used to pay the Fair Trade Premiums. Buying from us is your contribution to the cause of trade justice.


You may have noticed that when we have been discussing what fair trade means, we’ve been using the term "Fair Trade" as two words. Elsewhere, you will see the term "Fairtrade" as a single word. Each of these terms carries a slightly different meaning. Here are the definitions of both:


The "Fairtrade" logo on a product reassures buyers that it has been traded in accordance with the principles and regulations set out by Fairtrade International (represented in the UK by the British Fairtrade Foundation). 

These social, economic and environmental standards are for both companies and the farmers and workers to adhere to. For companies, these standards include payment no lower than the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects of the community’s choice. As for the farmers and workers, the standards include the likes of product quality and environmentally friendly farming practices.


Fair trade, written as two words, describes an approach to doing business that is fair to all those involved. It sees the standards which Fairtrade sets as a minimum and seeks to go beyond that.

Fair trade also encompasses products, such as craft, which cannot be certified by Fairtrade as it is largely based on commodity pricing.

This approach is encapsulated by the 10 principles of fair trade: 

  • Creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers: Poverty reduction by making producers economically independent.
  • Transparency and accountability: Involving producers in important decision making.
  • Fair trading practices: Trading fairly with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of producers. 
  • Payment of a fair price: Paying producers a fixed price by mutual agreement, ensuring socially acceptable wages depending on the location.
  • Ensuring no child labour and forced labour:Adhering to the United Nations (UN) Convention on children’s rights.
  • Commitment to non-discrimination, gender equality and women’s economic empowerment and freedom of association: Respecting the trade union rights and rejecting discrimination based on gender, religion or ethnicity.
  • Ensuring good working conditions: Providing a safe and healthy working environment for producers and workers in line with the International Labour Organization conventions.
  • Providing capacity building: Seeking to develop the skills of producers and workers so they can continue to grow and prosper.
  • Promoting fair trade: Raising awareness for the need of greater justice in world trade by trading fairly with poor communities.
  • Respect for the environment: Caring for the environment by maximising use of sustainable energy and raw materials while minimising waste and pollution.


There are many exciting ways to support the fair trade movement and get involved with We are Fair Trade, so why not start today? Firstly, you may be looking to buy fair trade products for your school, church, workplace, shop or stall, or you may be hoping to participate in fundraising. Alternatively, you can support fair trade by getting involved in many events throughout the year, including Fairtrade Fortnight.


  • Studies show that the Fairtrade Foundation’s Fairtrade Mark is recognised by over 80% of the UK population. 
  • Fair trade products are sold in over 120 countries across the world.
  • Fair trade started in 1946, in the United States, where Ten Thousand Villages (formerly Self Help Crafts) began buying needlework from Puerto Rico, and SERRV began to trade with poor communities in the South in the late 1940s. The first fair trade shop which sold these and other items opened in 1958 in the USA.
  • Garstang was the first town in the world to achieve Fairtrade status. Over 600 communities across the UK have since followed suit.
  • Some items, such as fish, cannot be certified by the Fairtrade Foundation as there are no set standards, and therefore cannot carry the Fairtrade Mark.
  • Did you know palm oil can be fairly traded? FairPalm is currently the world’s only fair trade, organic palm oil, that protects the environment while supporting smallholder growers. Read here for all you need to know about sustainable palm oil
  • The first ever Fairtrade banana was sold in 2000, with one in three supermarket bananas now carrying the Mark.
  • The first fair trade label was used in 1988. It was created by a Dutch organisation who were selling fair trade coffee. The label was called Max Havelaar after a character from a novel written in the 19th century. Max Havellar was a bit like our Robin Hood.
  • If you see the Fairtrade Mark with an arrow next to it, it means to look on the back of the packaging to learn more about the ingredients and sourcing method. All the ingredients that are available under Fairtrade standards have to be Fairtrade (e.g., all the cocoa, sugar and spice). The minimum total Fairtrade content is 20% but many companies go above and beyond that. Why not check out the percentages of Fairtrade ingredients on your next purchase?
  • The Fairtrade Foundation licenses the Fairtrade Mark to over 6,000 types of products in the UK; including coffee, tea, fruit, flowers, juice, wine, sugar, herbs, spices and so many more.


We deal with all things fair trade, all day every day; it’s our job to be able to answer all of your questions. If you have a question about anything regarding fair trade, such as:

  • ‘What are Fair Trade labels?’
  • ‘Does fair trade ensure a better life for people?’
  • ‘How did Fair Trade start?
  • ‘How can I be sure I'm buying fair trade?’

then we've got the answers!

If you have a question we haven’t answered, do get in touch! We’re a friendly bunch and will be happy to help!