Fair Trade Labels

Have you ever wondered what exactly to look for when trying to buy Fair Trade? It can  be a little confusing to decipher the labels or perceived rhetoric about “Fair Trade” and get down to finding the actual products available in the market. But once you know what to look for, it actually becomes quite easy.

Certified Fair Trade products are not available in every type of merchandise that we may think of. There is a small but comparable list of things available at this point and the best way to find those products is by looking for the “label”. The above photo is a collage of all the Certified Fair Trade and Fair Trade related logos that I am aware of. What is to follow is a listing of each logo and a brief description of what they mean and information about the parent organization. I hope you’ll find this helpful and that it may take some of the guesswork out of shopping Fair Trade.  

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The “Fair For Life” and “For Life” logos come to us from the Fair For Life Social & Fair Trade Programme. Their websites states, “’Fair for life’ is a brand neutral third party certification programme for social accountability and fair trade in agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. The programme complements existing fair trade certification systems.” The agency that provides the provides the seal and certification is IMO, the Institute for Marketecology. IMO as an agency is responsible for inspection, certification and quality assurance of eco-friendly products. The seal and the Social & FairTrade Certification Programme were developed “in response to the increasing demands of consumers, producers, processors, retailers and their global suppliers” by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) and the Swiss Bio-Foundation in 2006. ” The “fair for life – Social & FairTrade certified by IMO” certification seal guarantees that the production complies at all stages with the social responsibility as well as fairtrade criteria of the Fair for Life Social & FairTrade Certification Programme.” Goods bearing the Fair For Life logo must have a majority of ingredients from fair trade sources. Products with the Fair For Life seal include fruit, wine, oils, chocolate, tea, coffee, rice, nuts, flowers, spices and cosmetics. Companies include Dr. Bronners soaps, Theo Chocolates, and Guayaki Teas.

This is the former Fair For Life logo but it may still be on products in the marketplace. Fair For Life updated their logo in 2011 and is fazing out the old one. Look for it as well as the orange Fair For Life logo above.

Above quotes taken from Fair For Life website.

Equal Exchange certifies Fairly Traded and Organic coffee, tea, chocolate bars, cocoa, bananas and almonds. It’s a co-op that been in existence for over 25 years and works to empower both farmers and consumers. The Equal Exchange worker-owned co-op is based in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts. It’s “mission is to build long-term trade partnerships that are economically just and environmentally sound, to foster mutually beneficial relationships between farmers and consumers and to demonstrate, through their success, the contribution ofworker cooperatives and Fair Trade to a more equitable, democratic and sustainable world.” As a company, Equal Exchange has been at the forefront of the Fair Trade movement for many years. In the mid-80’s they were the first to introduce Fair Trade coffee to U.S. grocery stores. In 2004 they introduced Fair Trade sugar as a stand-alone product in the U.S. Equal Exchange also helps educate consumers and the public about Fair Trade with school curriculum for grades 4-9 and has an interfaith program to help churches, schools and other non-profits raise awareness and develop fundraising opportunities.

Above quotes taken from the Equal Exchange website.

Fair Trade International (also known as FLO) is a non-profit association consisting of “25 organizations working to secure a better deal for producers. From their headquarters in Bonn, Germany, they set international Fairtrade standards and support Fairtrade producers.” The 25 members are based in different countries and include groups like TransFair Deutschland, Fairtrade Mark Ireland, Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand and TransFair Canada. “The 25 members around the world produce or promote products that carry the FAIRTRADE Certification Mark. They developed the Fairtrade labeling model and are responsible for decision making within Fairtrade International (FLO). Additionally, the members include three producer networks, 19 labeling initiatives, two marketing organizations, and one associate member. There are 13 categories of certification within Fair Trade International – Cocoa, Coffee, Cotton, Flowers, Fruit, Gold, Grains (Rice & Quinoa) , Spices and Herbs, Nuts and Oils, Sports Balls, Sugar, Tea and Wine.

Fair Trade International defines Fair Trade as, “a different way of doing business. It’s about making principles of fairness and decency mean something in the marketplace. FLO seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy – to ensure the farmers and artisans behind those products get a better deal. For consumers and businesses, it’s also about information. Fair Trade is a way for all of us to identify products that meet our values so we can make choices that have a positive impact on the world.”

Above quotes taken from Fair Trade International Website.

Equitable Trade (E.T.)† is a fair trade-type organization not related to TransFair USA, the licensee of the Fair Trade Certified™ brand. But it is an association that strives to “Go Beyond Fair Trade,” which refers to a specific organization, by practicing a more comprehensive and transparent set of social, environmental, ethical and business principles. Under Equitable Trade standards, workers receive more than just living wages compatible with their communities, but an additional, supplementary allowance. This is a better deal than the more familiar Fair Trade Certified.

†To be registered as Fair Trade, products must meet specific environmental, labor, and developmental standards laid out and overseen by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), which has member/certifiers in 20 nations, and FLO-CERT. TransFair USA is the third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S.

While Fair Trade is the much better-known brand, here are the benefits of Equitable Trade:

  • For a company to become certified under a trade association and thus carry the logo on its products, it must pay a membership, or trademark, fee. Unlike Fair Trade, where membership fees are kept exclusively by the association, Equitable Trade keeps only 20% of its membership fees and reinvests the remaining 80% into a community investment fund. This money is then put towards various development projects that improve the community and ecosystem.
  • In an effort to eliminate child labor, audits and checks at the plantation level are conducted to ensure that all workers are of appropriate age, and that no one is coerced into labor.
  • Literacy programs, food for children and education curricula are also part of the Equitable Trade plan to improve the lives of people who work for companies operating under Equitable Trade standards. *

Fair Trade USA, formerly known as Transfair USA and formerly in association with Transfair Canada, is the most widely known certification group. They are a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and the labeling agency responsible for the “Fair Trade Certified” black and white logo most often seen on coffee, chocolate, or herbs. The Fair Trade USA certification principles include fair price, fair labor conditions, direct trade, democratic and transparent organization, community development, and environmental sustainability. The Mission of Fair Trade USA is to enable sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth. To achieve its mission, the organization certifies and promotes Fair Trade products and they have over 600 licensed partners.  “Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and their international suppliers to guarantee that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment and receive community development funds to empower and uplift their communities.”

Fair Trade USA certifies individual products that a company may carry. Meaning, the company may have only one line of product that uses Fair Trade ingredients or Fair Trade practices while the companies other product lines do not have the same standards. Therefore, the product may meet Fair Trade requirements but the company most likely does not.

Fair Trade USA recently updated its logo. The above logo is the one it will begin rolling out onto new packages but the old logo may still be widely available in the market place. Look for both when shopping for Fair Trade.

The products in this Wholefoods Market program must meet specific criteria that demand quality in four areas of responsibility: meets quality standards, provides more money to producers, ensures better wages and working conditions for workers, and Cares for the environment.

Whole Foods works with TransFair USA (currently Fair Trade USA, emphasis added) and the Rainforest Alliance to ensure the transparency and integrity of the program. One percent of proceeds from Whole Trade certified products will go to the Whole Planet Foundation to support micro-loan programs in developing countries. The company’s goal is to have at least half of its imported products from these countries fully certified within ten years. *

Whole Trade is the fair trade side of Wholefoods Market. It acts as Wholefoods Market’s own Fair Trade label although the certification process is handled through Fair Trade USA. So be sure you know there is a partnership here. All products in the line are officially certified through Fair Trade USA. Recent Whole Trade products include the Haitian Mangoes. Read More at Wholefoods blogsite.

Want to know EXACTLY where your coffee comes from? Enter Cooperative Coffees “Fair Trade Proof” seal. Cooperative Coffees is the country’s largest cooperative of independent Fair Trade roasters. Together with The Change Creation they have launched a seal and program to track coffee from farmer to roaster. The goal is total transparency. “The site functions as a forum to educate people about Cooperatives Coffees extremely rigorous approach to Fair Trade. A key component of the project was to develop a seal that would appear on packaging and “compete” successfully with other seals. Transparency makes fairness possible because it makes hiding the truth impossible. Use this site to trace your coffee or to learn about our deep commitment to a higher standard of trade.” If you see the “Fair Trade Proof” stamp on the packaging of coffee it means that that coffee is fully traceable. Go to fairtradeproof.org & click on the roaster’s name in the drop-down menu to see the contracts, cupping evaluations, bills of lading, & invoices that track the business relationships with each of the company’s suppliers. This is full transparency.

Learn more about the seal Here.

The HAND IN HAND Fair Trade seal is a RAPUNZEL label. The only products that will bear this label are those distributed by RAPUNZEL NATURKOST.  RAPUNZEL bears all financial, personal and administrative expenditures. This might mean that there is no third party verification or auditing. All auditing and labeling is done by the parent company, RAPUNZEL. The company states, “HAND IN HAND products may originate from cooperatives, plantations, exporters or processors. Transfair products on the other hand are allocated to certain organizational forms, e.g. sugar may only be purchased from cooperatives. With a Transfair label our cooperation with the Planeta Verde plantation that has done exemplary work for many years would no longer be possible. Special FLO criteria for certain products such as coconut do not yet exist. Therefore, our coco products could not get a Transfair label.”

Above quotes taken from the Rapunzel Hand In Hand website


FairWild is a Certification and seal covers the social and fairtrade aspects of wild harvested goods. FairWild understand the importance of protection and management of wild-collected natural ingredients and products. They offer “a Total Quality Management System – to assure buyers that FairWild Certified products are sourced and produced in a socially and ecologically sound way.” The FairWild Foundation has developed a set of Standards specific to the foundation that also implements elements of the International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection (ISSC-MAP). “The FairWild Standard assesses the harvest and trade of wild plants against various ecological, social and economic requirements.”

Above quotes taken from the FairWild website

The Fair Trade Federation is a trade association that works with organizations in North America who are committed to Fair Trade. It is a membership based program for businesses and it does not certify products. Members of the Fair Trade Federation pay an annual fee to the FTF in exchange for support and promotion. FTF regularly reviews the members to ensure the associations standards are being met.

Retailer may apply after 180 days of active trading and then annually after that if the following conditions are met:

  • Applicant only buys from importers (not directly from producer organizations) and
  • Applicant has reached at least $20,000 in sales.
  • Strives to only source goods according to the Fair Trade Principles and Code of Practice, as outlined by FTF.
  • Has been in operation for at least 365 days in either Canada or the United States*       and
  • Passes the Federation’s screening process based on its practice of Fair Trade.

The associations roots trace back to the 1970’s but it was in 1994 that the group incorporated formally as the North American Alterative Trade Organization (NAATO). In 1995, their name was officially changed to the Fair Trade Federation.

The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), formerly the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), is the global representative body of over 450 members committed to 100% Fair Trade. The WFTO operates in 75 countries across 5 regions; Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North American and the Pacific Rim, with elected global and regional boards.  It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale. WFTO members are organizations differentiated by their 100% Fair Trade commitment to eradicate poverty through sustainable economic development; pioneering social and environmental policy and practice and continual reinvestment in marginalized artisans, farmers and producer communities in some of the most fragile places on earth. Membership of the WFTO is limited to organizations that demonstrate a 100% Fair Trade commitment and apply its 10 Principles of Fair Trade.

I hope this helps you in your quest to be an informed Fair Trade consumer.

3 thoughts on “Fair Trade Labels

  1. This is really helpful! Thanks for putting in the effort here, I have actually always wondered about the meaning of the different Fair Trade labels, but never took the time to find out more. Such a good resource!

  2. I love that you have a heart for fair trade. I am giving a speech at a local community college on this subject Thursday! This is a subject very near to my heart! You have wonderful information on your blog!

    • Thank you Danielle! I hope your talk goes well, we need more people talking abou this subject and exploring ways that we can make a difference. Please let me know if you need any more information or if I can help with your talk in any way. I am working in my next blog entry about Fair Trade Towns. I am on the committee for our Fair Trade Town. We are only the fourth town in CA tone recognized. Cool stuff. Take courage, let me know if you need Ny help.

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