World Fair Trade Day is on May 11 and in its honor we’re putting together the Fair Trade Fashion Round-Up. There are a number of fair trade organizations, with an array of fair trade logos, and it can sometimes be confusing to know what to look for. (Heck, we’re not even sure if it’s “fair trade” or “fairtrade”.) According to the Fair Trade Resource Network, “Fair Trade is not regulated by a single authority, and anyone can claim their organization or products are Fair Trade. So, Fair Trade advocates usually look for an independent, third-party recognition in the form of product certifications, or organization/brand approvals.” So to start the Round-Up we’re identifying the prominent fair trade organizations and how they fit together.
World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) – The WFTO is probably the biggest player in the Fair Trade arena. They are an international membership based agency. Membership is limited to organizations that demonstrate a 100% Fair Trade commitment and apply its 10 Principles of Fair Trade. The logo, or FTO Mark, identifies organizations that practice Fair Trade.
Fair Trade Federation (FTF) – The FTF is a member organization of the WFTO. They screen producers based in Canada and the USA. This screening process is also considered a membership, rather than a certification. Whenever you see the FTF logo on a product tag or package, you will also see the member organization’s name. This is because FTF membership represents an entire organization, not just an individual product. It’s important to note that almost every nation has it’s own member organization of the overall WFTO. For example, our French lingerie designer, Peau-Ethique, is a member of La Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Equitable, which is France’s WFTO member. All of the individual national member organizations are still bound by the WFTO requirements and the 10 Principles of Fair Trade.
Fairtrade International (FLO) – Headquartered in Bonn, Germany, FLO sets international fair trade standards to certify that specific products and brands are fair trade. TransFair, Fairtrade Foundation, Max Havelaar, etc. are all national initiatives of FLO and fall under the Fairtrade International family. The Fairtrade International logo to the left is the most common one found on fair trade clothing outside of the USA.
Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) – FTUSA is the leading third-party certifier of fair trade products and brands in the United States. Originally, FTUSA was a member organization of Fairtrade International. However, in 2011 they separated to form their own system. This means both systems now have different standards and reporting requirements. This can be confusing to a consumer because European brands whose products are FLO certified, generally do not use the common Fair Trade Certified logo we see to the right, which is a USA-only certification. Also, this logo is relatively new and the old version of the FTUSA logo shown below is still widely found on Fair Trade products in the USA.
In addition to these 4, there are a number of smaller organizations that do third-party certifications. The Fair Trade Resource Network offers this comprehensive list.
It’s also important to note that the producer must pay to be certified. So there are some smaller companies we work with that adhere to the basic principles of the WFTO and monitor the conditions of factory and farm workers through frequent visits and interviews, but who have not actually had their products certified. This is fairly common and it can be an acceptable alternative depending on the level of confidence in the manufacturer and the frequency and thoroughness of their own monitoring.
Now that the logos are clear, we’d like to highlight the manufacturers that we work with who are fully focused on fair trade and are certified by and/or members of the above organizations. Between now and World Fair Trade Day, we’ll introduce our readers to these incredible manufacturers – one at a time – whose entire business model revolves around ensuring that people and planet are equally valued in their every decision.
Follow this blog or follow us on Facebook to get each installment.