What is Fair Trade?

Simply put Fair Trade is a different way of doing business.  Fundamentally, it is a response to the failure of conventional trade to deliverPeruvian woman dying wool in the Sacred Valley of the Incas sustainable livelihoods and development opportunities to people in the poorest countries of the world.  It is about better wages, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in these developing countries. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices, Fair Trade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poor & weak;  this is evidenced by the two billion of our fellow citizens who, despite working extremely hard, survive on less than $2 per day. Poverty and hardship limit people's choices while market forces tend to further marginalise and exclude them. This makes them vulnerable to exploitation, whether as farmers and artisans in family-based production units or as hired workers within larger businesses. Fair Trade enables workers to improve their position and have more control over their lives.

Awareness and knowledge is key and taking the time and effort to learn about how and where the products that you purchase were produced benefits us all.  This movement is engaged in debates with political decision-makers on how to make international trade fairer. On top of that, Fair Trade has forced mainstream business to become more aware of its social and environmental responsibility. In short: Fair Trade has become a global movement and keeps on becoming more and more successful with the support of customers like YOU!

(Fair Trade is not to be confused with Free Trade or Free Market, which does not have the farmer's, artisan's or worker's best interests in mind.)

A Little Bit of History

Fair Trade traces its roots back to 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer for a Mennonite Committee, visited a sewing class in Puerto Rico where she discovered the talent that the women had for creating beautiful needlework while living in extreme poverty despite all of Indian woman weaving textiles.their hard work. A few years later Edna, along with Ruth Lederach, began carrying these pieces back to the United States to sell, returning the money to the women directly. Their work eventually grew into Ten Thousand Villages which opened its first fair trade shop in 1958 and is now the largest fair trade retailer in North America. 

From the late 1970s to the late 1980s, many organizations were formed solely aimed at improving the livelihoods of disadvantaged people through trade and to provide a forum for the exchange of information and ideas.  Such organizations are the Fair Trade Federation which formally incorporate in 1994 and the World Fair Trade Organization(formerly IFAT) which was founded as a global network of committed fair trade organizations.

Since 2000, fair trade sales and consumer awareness have increased tremendously as the range of fair trade products has expanded. From the early days of lace and home décor, handmade items now include clothing, sports equipment, toys, and much more.  In 2002, the first World Fair Trade Day was celebrated to heighten consumer awareness and to strengthen connections among fair traders and interested citizens around the globe.  

To learn more about the Fair Trade movement and how it all began check out A Fair Trade Hub, an awesome site dedicated to everything Fair Trade.