The Fairtrade Foundation

Fairtrade is a movement for change that works directly with businesses, consumers and campaigners to make trade deliver for farmers and workers. It is represented by the Fairtrade Foundation.

The international Fairtrade system (which the Fairtrade Foundation is a part of) represents the world’s largest and most recognised fair trade system. They are a global organisation working to secure a better deal for farmers and workers.

What is fairtrade?

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. If companies pay farmers equitably, Fairtrade believes, other benefits cascade out as well.

Producers must meet a number of standards to qualify for Fairtrade: rules about labour conditions, for instance, or waste disposal. These are periodincally checked to ensure adherence. By requiring manufacturing and fashion companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade tackles the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the most vulnerable. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.

With Fairtrade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal. And that means they can make their own decisions, control their future and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.

Fairtrade sets social, economic and environmental standards for both companies and the farmers and workers who grow the food we love. For farmers and workers the standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment, for companies they include the payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects of the community’s choice.

We independently check that our standards have been met by the farmers, workers and companies that are part of products’ supply chains. And in order to reassure consumers that this has happened, we license the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products and packaging to signal this.

Fairtrade Cotton

In the outdoor industry, the farming of raw materials such as cotton, are the most relevant in terms of Fairtrade. Despite a move away from cotton as a technical fabric for garments it is still widely used in more casual, lifestyle pieces.

Cotton is the world’s oldest commercial crop and one of the most important fibre crops in the global textile industry. Although, not a primary material is outdoor gear it still plays an important role with brands and their products.

Although world cotton production is dominated by China, India and the US, cotton is vital for the survival of many low income countries in Central and West Asia and Africa – it accounts, in value terms, for 26.4 per cent of Benin’s exports and 58.7 per cent of Burkina Faso’s.

Cotton farmers in developing countries, including leading producers like India and China, live in hardship. As many as 100 million households are directly engaged in cotton production and an estimated 300 million people work in the cotton sector when family labour, farm labour and workers in ancillary services such as transportation, ginning, baling and storage are taken into account. For farmers, the challenges range from the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton, through to competition from highly subsidised producers in rich countries and poor terms of trade. In particular, government subsidies for cotton farmers in rich countries, particularly the US, create a market with artificially low prices that small-scale farmers are unable to compete in.

Fairtrade cotton was launched to put the spotlight on these farmers who are often left invisible, neglected and poor at the end of a long and complex cotton supply chain. Through tools like the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium and stronger, more democratic organisations, Fairtrade has sought to provide these farmers with an alternative route to trade and higher, more stable incomes. The Fairtrade Cotton Briefing provides a detailed overview of the cotton industry and its challenges, and explores why Fairtrade is needed and what it can achieve. Fairtrade helps businesses to source Fairtrade Cotton thus providing traceability of where their cotton comes from and also transparency within their supply chains. Businesses can source Fairtrade cotton in two ways: the classic Fairtrade certified Cotton model and the Fairtrade Sourced Cotton (mass balance model).

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