You remember that childhood rhyme: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for Fair Trade ice cream! ” Ok so maybe the childhood rhyme didn’t include Fair Trade, but it does now! This week was a triumphant one for the Fair Trade world, as ever popular ice cream giant, Ben & Jerry’s announced all their ice cream will be fully Fair Trade certified by 2013! That means all ingredients used in over a hundred delectable flavors will be Fair Trade certified!!! The Fair Trade world is buzzing about this recent development as well as mainstream media outlets including the BBC.  In fact, Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield were interviewed on the BBC about these changes (click to watch the video).

It may come to no surprise that a hippie-esque, responsible company from Vermont would make such a commitment, however it has been a long time coming. In 2005, Ben & Jerry’s became the first ice cream company to source some of their ingredients through Fair Trade means and currently provide Fair Trade flavors such as Chocolate, Vanilla and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.  Ben & Jerry state themselves that if it weren’t for their corporate partners, Unilever, the transition to Fair Trade would have happened long ago. It looks like they have finally convinced the higher-ups going Fair Trade is the natural evolution for a company like Ben & Jerry’s. It is encouraging to see major companies like this hop on board and we certainly hope it becomes a trend.

Such a commitment by a company as large as Ben & Jerry’s will make a huge impact. Not only will it bring Fair Trade directly into the American mainstream marketplace (bringing awareness right to our doorsteps), but it will also provide a partnership with several Fair Trade cooperatives, totaling close to 27,000 farmers! Wow! This is really going to affect several people in this world and the achievement should be celebrated. FLO’s Chief Executive, Rob Cameron put it best when he stated, ” Tackling poverty and sustainable agriculture through trade may not be easy but it is always worth it, and Ben & Jerry’s has demonstrated real leadership in laying out this long-term ambition to engage with smallholders, who grow nuts, bananas, vanilla, cocoa and other Fair Trade-certified ingredients.”

We, at Autonomie Project, also want to extend our Thanks and Congratulations to the Ben & Jerry’s team for their Fair Trade pledge!  We have had the pleasure of working with some of their staff on the Fair Trade Boston committee. Here in Boston, we have a deep dedication to Fair Trade and are currently working together on a Fair Trade Towns Initiative to help Boston become a Fair Trade City! We are getting closer and closer to making our wonderful city a Fair Trade certified city and we are glad we have Ben & Jerry’s walking with us. Now if they would just make a vegan flavor or two, we could celebrate this Fair Trade by none other than eating some ice cream!

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Unlike coffee and chocolate Fair Trade apparel and home goods do not yet have certification in the US. In steps TransFair! TransFair is currently putting together a new certification and standards outline for Fair Trade cotton clothing and home goods. They hope to launch this program in the Spring of 2010, but have put together a draft, open to public viewing. There are asking, you , the consumers to take a moment and read through their proposal. They also welcome any comments or suggestions you may have about the new proposal and will be accepting those until the end of the year.

That’s right, you have until December 31st to take a moment and read through the draft as well as submit any commentary you may have to garments@transfairusa.org. The draft is broken down into two sections, one focusing on the obligations and standards the factories themselves must meet and the obligations the US companies must adhere to.

Obviously, being a Fair Trade Apparel company, this program and proposal is incredibly important to us. Currently our products are certified Fair Trade by FLO (which is a European Fair Trade organization.) However, we are very excited and encouraged by the developments of this program in the US. We certainly applaud TransFair for initiating this and hope that you will take the time to read over the document and give your feedback before the deadline of December 31st, 2009.

This is your chance as the consumers to take a stand and give your thoughts into a certification process. So while you have some downtime over the holidays, read over the document and please give your feedback! Fair Trade needs you.

Similar to our Eco-Friendly and Vegan Gift Guides, we put together some websites and suggestions for the Fair Trade enthusiast on your list! Or use the guide to purchase gifts for your friends and family who you would love to introduce Fair Trade to!

Like our other guides, we thought we would list some helpful websites to find Fair Trade gifts and products. Some great places are Global Exchange, Revive, Traditions Fair Trade, World of Good, Equita, Ten Thousand Villages, Taraluna, and Garuda International. At these sites you can find all your Fair Trade needs ranging from coffee and tea to clothing and beauty products! You can also purchase gift directly from our website at Autonomie Project, as all our products are Fair Trade! If you aren’t sure what your friend and family member would like all of the above sites, including ours sell gift certificates!

On top of these websites, you may be able to locate a Fair Trade store in your area. Check out the Fair Trade Federation website to locate stores in your area.

The following list is some great holiday fair trade gift ideas we suggest:

gift_ftharvest501091) Fair Trade Gift Packs: Put together a gift basket of fair trade goodies such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and cocoa(even your basket can be fair trade!). Maybe even add in fair trade dishes to go along. You should be able to find these products at your local food co-op or natural foods store. You can also find pre-made baskets at many of the websites above or directly through fair trade coffee vendors such as Equal Exchange, Grounds For Change, or Dean’s Beans. Also, Grounds for Change offers a Coffee a Month gift. So your loved one can enjoy fair trade coffee all year long!

fd_image_resizephp2) Fair Trade Wine: There is a new and great Fair Trade wine company called Etica. Their wines are all Fair Trade certified and you can find them on their website or in your local area. Or you can purchase a pre-made wine basket from Eco-Express. Fair Trade wine is hard to come by, so you are sure to impress the fair trade enthusiast on your list. Plus everyone loves a great bottle of wine!

additional_69078103) Hand Made Artisan Crafts: One of the great items of Fair Trade, is handmade artisan gifts. Several great websites and organizations sell handmade gifts from scarves to mugs and even jewelery. All these items make great gifts! Check out the websites above for more ideas. The time and love that goes into these products is sure to make a lasting impression on the craftsmanship of the product as well as the receiver! 

yhst-32031163094313_2029_463497794) Fair Trade Books and Guides: Books about Fair Trade and the economy behind it can make great gifts, especially for someone who is new to the idea. We suggest Business Unusual, No Nonsense Guide to Fair Trade, Fair Trade: A Beginner’s Guide, and The Conscious Consumer. For a more seasoned fair trader, you might want to give a fair trade shopping guide! This will allow your loved one to know which companies to support and which to avoid. Check out the The Better World Shopping Guide for the most comprehensive guide. 

5) Donate in their Name: Like all our other guides, we promote donations as gifts. You can give the gift of Fair Trade in honor of your loved one through several organizations such as Fair Trade Resource NetworkTransfair, Catholic Relief Services, and Fair Labeling Organization. Or you can make a more specific donation to help out fair trade workers such as helping buy new machines for farmers in Ecuador or help fair trade honey farmers learn their craft. Also you can give the gift of a Global Exchange membership!

With the growing presence of Fair Trade products in our marketplace, we’re sure you’ve seen the above symbols and have probably had more than one question on what it all means. If you don’t work in the Fair Trade industry, it does get a bit confusing. What does Fair Trade certified even mean? How does it relate to sweatshops? What logo should I be looking for so I can make sure I’m making the correct Fair Trade purchases? As a leader and pioneer in the Fair Trade fashion movement, we hope this post will help clarify the process of Fair Trade certification.

The concept of Fair Trade has existed since the early 1950’s when non-profit organizations first began importing products from small-scale third world producers. Over the years, as the movement grew and more and more entities were participating in this alternative form of trading, there became a need to create a structure and definition for Fair Trade to not only certify the participating producers but also to help promote the concept of Fair Trade and expand distribution to mainstream retailers.

So, what is Fair Trade? The most widely recognized definition of Fair Trade was created by an informal association of Fair Trade federations (we introduce you to a few of these groups further along in the post). Their definition reads:

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade. Fair Trade’s strategic intent is:

  • *deliberately to work with marginalized producers and workers in order to help them move from a position of vulnerability to security and economic self-sufficiency
  • *to empower producers and workers as stakeholders in their own organizations
  • *to actively play a wider role in the global arena to achieve greater equity in international trade.”

Many Fair Trade retailers, such as ourselves, take this definition even further by taking steps to ensure that our Fair Trade workers are being paid a living wage, are not held or forced to work overtime, are subject to a safe and healthy working environment, do not employ child labor, and are actively involved in wider community initiatives such as building a village health clinic or our 2007 water access program.

In order to ensure that companies, organizations, and products are in fact following the standards of Fair Trade and that the suppliers and the environment are being treated fairly, these Fair Trade federations have created a number of certification processes and easily-recognizable logos for consumers to use as a purchasing guide. The federations, both national and international, not only encourage companies to employ Fair Trade practices, but they monitor and certify these practices as meeting the international standards. This process helps keep the market pure; protects workers down the supply chain; and makes it easier for consumers to be sure they are receiving legitimate Fair Trade products and are supporting authentic organizations.

With so many associations, though, it can get confusing who certifies what, and how to know if something is actually certified Fair Trade. Below is a brief explanation of some of the symbols and organizations you may come across while inspecting a product label:

Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (or FLO) is an international federation of organizations, traders, and experts that not only historically set the standard of Fair Trade practices, but also continue to certify and offer support to the widest array of Fair Trade producers. The certification process is done by FLO-CERT GmbH, an independent auditing company based out of Germany that conducts product certifications in seventy countries worldwide.

FLO’s certifications are distinct from other federations because it guarantees that a premium be paid to the producer groups that extends well beyond the conventional ‘fair price’. They also encourage buyers to invest in social and environmental improvements for the producer groups that not only embellishes the economic transaction of doing business, but helps create lasting long-term relationships. FLO also certifies the most products and steadily increases their product list every year in order to ensure the future of Fair Trade. FLO’s certified products include honey, cotton, wine, sports balls, fruit, and flowers, as well as more widely-recognized Fair Trade products such as coffee, tea and cocoa. We believe that FLO’s certifications are top notch and amongst the best out of all the federations available to Fair Trade retailers. Our fairly traded Ethletic sneakers are produced by a facility that is monitored by FLO. To identify FLO products, make sure to look for their logo and check out their chock-full-of-good-info website www.fairtrade.net.

TransFair is one of the 20 member organizations of FLO and is the primary operating Fair Trade entity here in the US. They also have chapters in Canada and a few other countries that all call FLO their parent organization. You most likely have seen TransFair’s symbol associated with Fair Trade as it is very commonly used to certify products gracing American supermarket shelves:

While TransFair’s efforts are extremely notable, they are much more limited in resources than FLO, and are thus only able to certify a handful of agricultural products such as coffee, tea, rice, sugar and vanilla.

Another organization which you may have heard tossed around is the Fair Trade Federation (or FTF). FTF is a member-based association of US and Canadian importers, wholesalers, and retailers that work with or carry Fair Trade items. Not only does it provide a network for these companies to link with Fair Trade producers, but it also promotes Fair Trade standards and practices throughout North America. Also, FTF is a great place for consumers to find general information about Fair Trade and local companies and businesses that sell and work with fair trade products. It’s important to note, though, that while FTF has a very rigid member screening policy, it is not a certifying entity. So when you see this logo, you know that the organization is only a member of FTF and is not necessarily promoting certified products:

Finally, you may have heard the term IFAT or International Fair Trade Association while learning about Fair Trade. With regional offices for Africa, Asia and Latin America, IFAT is like an international version of FTF: a member-based organization whose work is focused on developing the market for Fair Trade products and advocacy. Even though it is technically not a certification system, IFAT guarantees that the organizations it approves meet worldwide Fair Trade standards such as working conditions, wages, and the environment. IFAT’s identifying symbol is probably less seen in this country than any of the above organizations, but is still good to familiarize yourself with:

This explanation and list of Fair Trade federations is certainly not exhaustive and we encourage you to research Fair Trade much more extensively on your own. Even if you don’t, we hope you found this introduction useful and that you will continue to look for and support FAIR TRADE!


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