-Kristen Connors, former PJC staff

I am thrilled to see more and more Fair Trade certified products on the grocery store shelves, and in other retail settings.  Not only are more Fair Trade certified products available to consumers, but also the number of Fair Trade certifiers has grown.  Currently in the United States there are four major Fair Trade Certifiers (Fair Trade USA, Fair for Life, Fair Trade America, and the Small Producer Symbol).  These four certifiers have different standards they use to determine whether an organization complies with Fair Trade principles.  Now, when you see two competing Fair Trade labels, you can make an even more informed decision about your purchase. 

On Saturday, January 25 at 3:00pm, the Peace & Justice Center will be having a short public presentation called Fair Trade Labels, that will highlight all those tricky nuances between labels and language within and surrounding the Fair Trade Movement. Before joining us at the presentation, you can familiarize yourself with some commonly seen FT labels: 


Fair Trade USA (FTUSA):  This is the oldest certifier in the USA.  Originally the national branch of FLO, FTUSA split in 2011 to pursue its own certifications using different (mainly lowered) standards to certify producers.  FTUSA certifies plantations for any product, and does not provide reoccurring audits to ensure fair standards are upheld by firms, or investigate fair labor practices along the supply chain.  To that end, FTUSA requires a minimum of 20% of ingredients used in multi-ingredient products be Fair Trade certified.  FTUSA does set a minimum floor price for producers, and FT premiums on plantations are allocated through a committee comprised of labor and management representatives. 



Fair Trade America (FTI): This is the new national branch of Fair Trade International.  FTI requires the same percentage of Fair Trade certified ingredients in multi-ingredient foods as FTUSA.  FTI reserves 50% of assembly seats in it’s governing body to organized small producers.  FTI does permit some plantations to be certified, but still excludes plantations producing coffee, cocoa, sugar, rice, cotton, and honey from certification.  Fair trade certification was designed, first and foremost to give small producers and cooperatives accesses to global markets.  FTI still only certifies small producers of products like coffee and cocoa because it is these producers the fair trade movement was originally designed to help.


Fair For Life (IMO): Fair for Life audits the entire supply chain of a product to ensure each step of production meets fair and equal labor standards as detailed by the ILO.  Fair for Life also requires that multi-ingredient products contain 80% Fair Trade certified ingredients.  Fair for Life will certify plantations in any industry, but the workers on such plantations may establish committee to allocate premiums without a required management presence.  This maintains worker control of money intended to be put aside for community development projects.




Small Producers Symbol (SPP): SPP only certifies small farmers and small producers in accordance with the original intent of the fair trade movement.  They have an established minimum floor prices, and they run audits to screen out producers with labor or environmental violations.  They require that multi-ingredient products contain at least 50% Fair Trade certified products.   



Each of these certifying agencies has different standards and practices they use to determine if goods are being produced using accepted fair trade standards.  Each agency has clearly defined priorities within the core fair trade principles. So now, when you find yourself comparing to different fair trade products, I hope you’ll feel confident enough to make a decision that aligns best with your fair trade principles and priorities. For more information and resources, please come visit us at the PJC Store, our staff and volunteers will be thrilled to chat with you! 



Jaffe, Daniel, and Philip H. Howard. (2015). “Who’s the Fairest of them All? The fractured landscape of U.S. fair trade certification.”  Springer (published online November 2, 2015).