Fairtrade in general

Fairtrade standards and certification

Fairtrade in general

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives.

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What is Fairtrade Ireland?

Fairtrade Ireland is the independent non-profit organisation that licenses use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products in Ireland in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade standards.  Fairtrade Ireland was established in 1992.

Fairtrade Ireland is the Irish member of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), which unites 21 labelling initiatives across Europe, Japan, North America, Mexico and Australia/New Zealand as well as networks of producer organisations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Fairtrade Ireland is a registered charity (no. CHY 11264). It is also a company limited by guarantee, registered in Ireland (no. 217128).

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What is the FAIRTRADE Mark?

The FAIRTRADE Mark is an independent consumer label which is a guarantee that the products containing the Mark have been certified against internationally agreed Fairtrade standards.  It shares internationally recognised Fairtrade standards with initiatives in 20 other countries, working together globally with producer networks as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). The Mark indicates that the product has been certified to give a better deal to the producers involved - it does not act as an endorsement of an entire company's business practices.

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Who is Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International?

The international body comprising of Fairtrade Ireland and its partner organisations around the world which has overall responsibility for developing Fairtrade standards, supporting producers, and operating global certification and auditing systems.

FLO is based in Bonn, Germany and is composed of two separate organizations:

FLO International eV. is a non-profit multi-stakeholder association involving 23 member organizations, of which 20 are Labelling Initiatives across Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. 3 members are regional producer networks in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean representing over 600 Fairtrade certified producer organisations in the South. FLO develops and reviews international Fairtrade standards and assists producers in capitalizing on market opportunities.

FLO-CERT GmbH is a limited company that coordinates all tasks and processes all information related to the inspection and certification of producers and traders. Operating independently of any other interests, it follows the international ISO standard for certification bodies (ISO 65).

For more information about FLO and FLO-CERT, please visit their website at www.fairtrade.net.

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What is a Fairtrade registered licensee?

In the Fairtrade system, a licensee is a company that has signed a Licence Agreement with Fairtrade Ireland and is therefore entitled to apply the FAIRTRADE Mark to specific products covered by the Agreement.

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What are Fairtrade standards?

Fairtrade standards comprise both minimum social, economic and environmental requirements, which producers must meet to be certified, plus progress requirements that encourage continuous improvement to develop farmers' organisations or the situation of estate workers.

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What is a Fairtrade certified producer group?

This term is used for either an association of farmers or a company dependent on hired labour that produces one or more commodities for which there are Fairtrade standards and that has been certified to meet those standards. Once certified, they are added to the Fairtrade product register and registered companies can buy from them under Fairtrade terms.

Some Fairtrade certified producer groups are able to sell their entire production under Fairtrade terms, while others sell only a very small percentage and badly need more buyers to offer a Fairtrade deal. It is only by increasing the amount sold as Fairtrade that producer groups are able to receive a steady stream of additional income to improve their lives.

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What is the Fairtrade minimum price?

The Fairtrade minimum price defines the lowest possible price that a buyer of Fairtrade products must pay the producer. The minimum price is set based on a consultative process with Fairtrade producers and traders and guarantees that producers receive a price which covers the cost of sustainable production. When the market price is higher than the Fairtrade minimum price, the market price is payable.

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What is the Fairtrade premium?

Money paid on top of the Fairtrade minimum price that is invested in social, environmental and economic developmental projects, decided upon democratically by a committee of producers within the organisation or of workers on a plantation.

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What is a Fairtrade Town (or School, University, Parish or Diocese)?

Fairtrade Ireland does not certify towns or other groups, only products. However, we do run campaigns with local community groups aimed at boosting awareness and understanding of trade issues, and promoting the purchase of Fairtrade products as a way that ordinary people can make a difference to the lives of producers.

These campaigns have a set of goals, and receive a certificate of congratulation from us when they are reached. Once a local community declares its status as a Fairtrade Town (or university etc), they must be committed to continuing their campaigning and awareness raising. Find out more by visiting our Get Involved section.

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What product categories does Fairtrade certify?

Internationally-agreed Fairtrade generic criteria exist for the following commodity products and in each category there is a list of approved producers maintained by a FLO register.

Food products:

  • Bananas
  • Cocoa
  • Coffee
  • Dried Fruit
  • Fresh Fruit & Fresh Vegetables
  • Honey
  • Juices
  • Nuts/Oil Seeds
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Spices
  • Sugar
  • Tea
  • Wine

Non-food products:

  • Cotton
  • Cut Flowers
  • Ornamental Plants
  • Sports Balls
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Where can I buy Fairtrade products?

Details of national stockists can be found on our products pages. They are available in major supermarkets, independent shops, in cafés, restaurants, through catering suppliers and wholesales, as well as through online shopping channels.

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How do I stock Fairtrade certified products in my shop, café, restaurant or school?

Retail & Catering Directories lists registered distributors of Fairtrade products and our Wholesaler Suppliers Directory lists registered distributors that can supply shops.

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My local shop, supermarket or café doesn't offer Fairtrade products. What can I do?

Speak to the manager about stocking Fairtrade. Give them a leaflet about Fairtrade.

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How much of the price we pay for Fairtrade products goes back to the producers?

Whatever the price of the product on the shelf, only the FAIRTRADE Mark ensures that the producers have received what has been agreed to be a fairer price, as well as the social premiums to invest in the future of their communities. The Fairtrade price applies at the point where the producer organisation sells to the next person in the supply chain (usually an exporter or importer). It is not calculated as a proportion of the final retail price, which is negotiated between the product manufacturer and the retailer.

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Why do some products claim to be "fair trade'' but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark?

Some organizations, also called Alternative Trading Organisations (ATOs), are purely dedicated to trading fairly and have been doing so for many years before Fairtrade certification was established. You can find these organisations listed at IFAT. The process of agreeing international Fairtrade standards can take time, and for many of the products these organisations sell, there may not yet be standards available to certify their products.

There are, however, some other companies making their own ‘fair trade' claims without having the independent scrutiny of the Fairtrade Certification Mark, or being part of a recognised network such as IFAT. You need to ask what these claims are based upon. If you want to be sure that farmers and workers are receiving the better deal offered by Fairtrade, always look for the FAIRTRADE Mark.

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Why aren't handicrafts Fairtrade certified?

Fairtrade Certification and its system of minimum pricing were designed initially for commodity products. It is technically difficult to adapt this model of standardized minimum pricing to crafts and other products made by small-scale artisans, which are each unique, made of varied materials and have highly varied production processes and costs. However, FLO is currently working with the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) to explore whether we could work towards a certification programme for these products in the future.

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I'm a student doing a project on Fairtrade. Can Fairtrade Ireland send me information?

While we are very pleased that so many students produce dissertations and projects on various aspects of Fairtrade, limited time and resources unfortunately make it impossible for us to supply the individual responses requested, or to agree to individual interviews or respond to personal questionnaires. For school and undergraduate student projects, we have put as much information on our website to enable you to find answers to most questions we are asked as part of these projects. We can't arrange individual interviews or complete additional questionnaires. We would also recommend that you look at the website of the Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International (FLO), this is the umbrella organisation for all the national Fairtrade initiatives.

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Fairtrade standards and certification

How do I set up a licensee agreement to get my product certified or source a product to be certified?

Fairtrade Ireland will guide you through the process. For more information read our Business Services section of the website.  

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How can my producer group become Fairtrade certified?

FLO-CERT is responsible for the inspection and certification of producer organisations against Fairtrade standards. Details of the application process and how the system works can be found on their website.

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Who is responsible for setting Fairtrade standards?

All Fairtrade standards, including minimum prices and premiums are set by the Standards Unit at FLO and the minimum prices and premiums for each product are included in the product-specific standards available on their website. The process for agreeing international Fairtrade standards follows the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Social and Environmental Labelling, where stakeholders (including producers, traders, NGOs) participate in the research and consultation process and final decision making.

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Why are some Fairtrade prices set worldwide and others set for countries or regions?

Worldwide prices exist for some products (nuts, cocoa and juices). However, most products have country-specific or regional prices. This is because costs of production vary greatly around the world and prices for new products and origins have historically been set on a case-by-case basis. As the demand for new prices grows the FLO Standards Unit are increasingly moving towards regional rather than country-specific prices. This opens the scope of new prices to as many producers as possible and avoids having to carry out pricing work for the same product every time a new producer group is identified in a new country. If production costs vary significantly in a region a consensus is reached between the producers and other stakeholders involved in order to set a price that is acceptable for the whole region.

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Why doesn't Fairtrade certify large coffee plantations?

Around 70% of the world's coffee farmers are small-scale growers, and they face particular disadvantages in the market place. Fairtrade's mission is to make trade work for marginalised or disadvantaged producers, and therefore there is a global agreement that the system should offer champion purchase of sustainable coffee from organisations of small coffee farmers explicitly.

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How does Fairtrade labelling work with composite products?

Some Fairtrade products contain more than one Fairtrade certified ingredient, for example muesli which may contain Fairtrade certified fruit, nuts and sugar. By including such products we can extend the benefits of Fairtrade to more farmers, workers and their families.

The FAIRTRADE Mark or label may be put on a composite product if more than 50% of its ingredients, by dry weight, are sourced from Fairtrade certified producer organizations. In case of liquid composite products, a FAIRTRADE Mark may be put on the product if more than 50% of its volume is sourced from Fairtrade certified producer organizations.

If the total Fairtrade content is less than 50%, a composite product qualifies if it has a significant ingredient and if this ingredient represents more than 20% of the product's dry weight. A 'significant ingredient' is defined as one that meets at least one of the following requirements: eligible under appropriate trading standards to be part of a product's name e.g. 'orange juice drink' of which the main ingredient is water, but the significant ingredient is orange juice an ingredient normally associated with the product e.g. 'cocoa'

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