The Fairtrade Certification – Everything You Need to Know (Climate Pledge Friendly Partner)

Continuing our series on Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly program and the approved partner certifications, this article will focus on the arguably best-known sustainability certification – Fairtrade International

Similar to Rainforest Alliance the Fairtrade certification recognises goods produced using farming methods that are better for the environment as well as the farmers. 

This article will examine the details on the certification and what it takes to receive the certification so you can decide if it’s a good fit for you and your business. 

Before we dive into the details let’s look at the history of Fairtrade International. It’ll be important to know that we can trust the quality of the certification and, if you’re going to invest time and money, that it will be around and valuable for decades to come. 

About the Fairtrade International Certification 

Fairtrade International was established in 1992 after decades of various globally dispersed efforts to apply trading methods which are better for farmers, especially in developing countries. The goal was to create a better balance between the producing south of the globe (often developing countries) and the consuming north of the globe (mostly developed countries). 

The first products were certified in 1994 and today, 27 years later, nearly 1.8 million farmers operate certified farms, and more than 2,400 brands offer thousands of products with the Fairtrade label – i.e. the popular ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s:

Ben & Jerry's fairtrade label

The Fairtrade standard focuses on securing better prices and working conditions for farmers, leading to a trade that’s sustainable for all involved parties. The areas they focus on are: 

  • Prices that enable better living conditions for farmers especially in poor countries. 
  • Working conditions that prohibit exploitation. 
  • Long term commitments and stability. 
  • Education for farmers to improve farming methods and produce quality. 

This article describes in detail how Fairtrade minimum prices work in the case of the highly price volatile coffee market: The Fairtrade minimum coffee price + a Fairtrade premium apply whenever the global coffee price is lower than the Fairtrade price. If the global coffee price is higher than the Fairtrade price, the higher price + the Fairtrade premium apply. Farmers use the premium to create additional funds for infrastructure projects and such. 

Fairtrade is unique in that 50% is owned by farmers and workers giving them an equal say in the decision-making process. 

There’s two different ways to get involved with Fairtrade – If you’re a farmer or producer or are trading products in bulk you may get certified using Fairtrade’s ISO certified partner FLOCERT. If you’re a brand looking to sell products with Fairtrade certified ingredients you may become a licensee. Since most of our clients fall into the latter category, we will break down the process of how to become a licensee in the following chapter. 

fairtrade license versus certification

How the Fairtrade Licensing Process Works in Detail 

If you are a brand looking to sell your products with the Fairtrade label the first and most important step is to see if your products are eligible for the certification.  

  • Check out if your products and their ingredients are eligible for the Fairtrade license. These are the main 7 products (here is a complete list of Fairtrade products):
fairtrade top products
  • Determine which certification type works for you depending on what kind of product you are looking to sell: 
  • Single ingredient products – I.e., you’re selling raw cashew nuts. This will be the label you can get:
fairtrade produce label
  • Multiple ingredient products – I.e., you’re selling energy bars with cocoa
    • All ingredients are from Fairtrade certified suppliers:
fairtrade ingredient label
  • Only certain ingredients are from Fairtrade certified suppliers: 
fairtrade ingredient label
  • (If you’re not sourcing from Fairtrade certified suppliers already: Select one of Fairtrade’s certified farms or distributors for your relevant ingredients if you haven’t already. Find a global list here.) 
  • Contact your local Fairtrade representation office
  • Start the licensing process. This is what it looks like in the UK:
fairtrade licensing process uk

If you want to sell your products internationally the target country’s local Fairtrade office has to approve your request.

Better World Products’ Certification Framework Applied to the Fairtrade License

In this article we have outlined why it’s so important to put effort into selecting the right sustainability certification – it will save you time, energy and money in the long run. With the Fairtrade license your main challenge will be to change your suppliers (if you haven’t already). That can be a costly and lengthy process that will directly influence your products’ quality.  

Have a look at the Better World Products certification framework to help you see if the Fairtrade label is the right choice for you.

Fees & Involvement 

The degree of involvement of the Fairtrade licensing process depends on whether you already source Fairtrade certified ingredients. If you do, the involvement is relatively low and the process simple.  

There’s a registration fee that varies by country, for the UK it is 550 pds, for Germany it is 160€. 

On top of that there’s a license fee that depends on the country of application and the type of product you’re selling – if you’re selling certified coffee, you must pay 0,22€ / kg. For other commodities you will have to pay fees by a percentage of their sales price.

Certification Timeframe

The basic process of filling out your license application online and receiving the signed license agreement via mail should take no longer than maximum two weeks. As soon as you receive the agreement and sign it you can use the Fairtrade labels. The license will be valid for one year.

Certification Popularity & Trend 

Fairtrade is one of the most widely recognised ethical certification labels worldwide. They count over 1.8 million certified farmers and workers. Over 2,400 licensees offer >30,000 products with a Fairtrade label. Popular brands using the seal include Nespresso, Ben & Jerry’s & Clipper Tea. 

Because of their significant presence in all countries the Fairtrade certification is suited for all main markets. This is reflected by the number of recognised Fairtrade certified products on different Amazon marketplaces: 

  • Amazon US = 405 
  • Amazon UK = 218 
  • Amazon DE = 341 

That being said there is a trend of especially smaller brands walking away from big certification organisations and applying their own sustainability standards. With an increased consumer awareness and education around sustainability this trend might continue and organisations like Fairtrade might lose some popularity.

Certification Type 

Depending on what your products look like you may get a license for  

  • Single ingredient products or  
  • Multi-ingredient products 
    • All ingredients are certified. 
    • Only one or a few ingredients are certified.

All certifiable products are agricultural products.

Brand Fit 

The Fairtrade certification focuses on improving the livelihoods of farmers especially in developing countries through higher and stable prices as well as long-term commitments. While they consider ecological improvements a positive by-product the clear focus is on economic sustainability and the wellbeing of workers. If that fits with your brand values Fairtrade might be the right organisation for you. 

You can only obtain the Fairtrade certification and license for certain products that are part of the Fairtrade Standards. These are Fairtrade’s Top 7 products:

fairtrade top products

If your products fit into one or several of the above categories or use them as ingredients, the Fairtrade license might be suited for you. Besides providing a steady and secured supply of high quality produce the label may also help your brand meet consumer expectations and create additional trust in your sustainability efforts.

Target Audience Fit 

Because of Fairtrade’s global popularity, the certification is suited for all locations and all demographics. Even less sustainability conscious people may have heard of the certification. 

Fairtrade has faced some controversy over the past years regarding prioritising the growth of their organisation over putting farmers’ needs first. 

Certification Age 

The Fairtrade organisation was founded in 1992. They certified their first products in 1994 which brings the certification age to 27 years. It’s one of the oldest sustainability certifications.

Fit to Current State of Product 

If your current product does not source Fairtrade certified ingredients, the necessary changes might be quite high. You must undergo the process of changing your suppliers which might lead to changes in quality, reliability, prices, etc. If a farm loses their Fairtrade certification for some reason that also means you must change suppliers yet again. 

Prepare yourself to pay price premiums for Fairtrade certified produce. It might influence your products’ price points and/or your margins.

Takeaways

The Fairtrade certification is one of the oldest sustainability certifications and it is a great option for your brand to show you care about fair and sustainable farming practices.

In this article we have explored 

  • What is the Fairtrade certification and license, who is behind it and what are the details? 
  • How does the license process work in detail and what is the main thing I have to change? 
  • What does the Better World Product certification framework applied to the Fairtrade certification look like? 

Hopefully this article brings you one step closer to choosing the right sustainability certification. If you have further questions about the Fairtrade certification, you can choose your local representation team for contact HERE.

Are you wondering if you make the most out of your Amazon sales? Feel free to reach out to us HERE.

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