Got a question about Fairtrade?

Find answers to some of the questions that are frequently asked about Fairtrade.

If your question is not answered above please Contact us.

  • What is Fairtrade?

    Fairtrade is an independent, third party certification system for goods that are produced in the Global South. Its mission is to ensure better prices, decent working conditions and fair terms of trade and to support local sustainability for farmers and workers in the Global South.

    Fairtrade requires companies to pay sustainable prices therefore addressing 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. Read more.

  • What is fair trade?

    “Fairtrade” and “fair trade” are different terms that are often confused. “Fairtrade” refers only to Fairtrade organizations (such as Fairtrade Canada) or products certified through the Fairtrade International system. On the other hand, “Fair trade” can refer to many different things – the fair trade movement, fair trade products generally (which can include handicrafts), products that claim to be fairly traded but do not carry the FAIRTRADE Mark . The words “fair trade” are not trademarked by any person or organization. Read more.

  • What is Fairtrade Canada?

    Fairtrade Canada is an independent non-profit organization that licenses the use of the FAIRTRADE Mark on products in Canada in accordance with internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards.

    Fairtrade Canada is the Canadian member of Fairtrade International, which unites over 25 labelling initiatives across Europe, Japan, North America, Mexico and Australia/New Zealand as well as networks of producer organizations from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • What is the FAIRTRADE Mark?

    fairtrade logo

    Our blue and green FAIRTRADE Mark is the independent consumer label you see on a product that meets the international Fairtrade Standards. It shows that the product has been certified to offer a better deal to the farmers and workers involved. The Mark is a registered trademark of Fairtrade Canada and ensures that the Fairtrade ingredients in a product have met the international Fairtrade standards. It does not endorse a company’s entire business practices.

    fairtrade bicket boy

    The black and white Fair Trade Certified Mark is also a registered trademark of Fairtrade Canada.  Both the FAIRTRADE Mark and the Fair Trade Certified Mark mean that the Fairtrade ingredients in a product are certified according to the standards of the international Fairtrade system.

  • Who is Fairtrade International?

    Fairtrade International (formally known as Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International) is the international body made up of Fairtrade Canada and its partner organizations around the world. We’re proud to say that it is 50% owned by the farmers and workers it serves. Fairtrade International is in charge of developing Fairtrade Standards for products, supporting farmers and workers, and operating global certification and auditing systems.

  • Who is FLOCERT?

    FLOCERT is the independent third-party certification body that audits farmers, workers, traders and companies to ensure they comply with the international Fairtrade Standards. Their auditors verify compliance with the rigorous social, economic and environmental standards. FLOCERT holds the ISO 17065 standard for certification bodies.

  • What are Fairtrade standards?

    Fairtrade Standards comprise the core requirements of social, economic and environmental in addition to no child labor and no forced labor. Developmental requirements along with progress requirements encourage continuous improvement of developing farmers’ organizations or the situation of estate workers. Read more about the Standards here: www.fairtrade.net/standards.html

  • What is a Fairtrade certified producer group?

    It is either an association of farmers or a company dependent on hired labor 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 require more buyers to purchase on Fairtrade terms. 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.

  • 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 farmers, workers and traders and represents a sustainable price that aims to cover production costs. When the market price is higher than the Fairtrade Minimum Price, the trader must pay the market price.

  • What is the Fairtrade premium?

    The Fairtrade Premium is an additional sum of money paid on top of the Fairtrade Minimum Price that farmers and workers invest in social, environmental and economic developmental projects to improve their businesses and their communities. They decide democratically as a committee how to invest the Premium. You can read more about how farmers spend their Premium here.

  • What is a Fairtrade registered licensee?

    It’s a company that has signed a License Agreement with Fairtrade Canada and is therefore entitled to apply the FAIRTRADE Mark to specific products covered by the agreement. Find out how to become a licensee here.

  • What is a Fair Trade Town?

    Fairtrade Canada runs Programs with town and city groups across the country aimed at boosting awareness and understanding of trade issues, and promoting the purchase of Fairtrade products within their Town. Through activities, events, and promotional initiatives, Fair Trade Town citizens are educated to use the power of their purchase to make a difference to the lives of farmers and workers in the Global South.

  • What is a Fair Trade Campus?

    The Fair Trade Campus program is designed to acknowledge university and college campuses that have shown leadership through their support of fair trade. Campuses are designated as Fair Trade and not certified (only products and producers can be Fairtrade certified) and assemble staff, administration and students together with purchasing policies that make Fairtrade certified products available and drive awareness and action amongst their peers.

  • What is a Fair Trade School?

    The Fair Trade School Program offers special recognition to schools demonstrating a concerted, long-term effort to support awareness and demand for Fairtrade certified products in their school. These designations have been modelled after the Fair Trade Town and Campus Programs and have been successful in growing the fair trade movement in Canada..

  • What is a Fair Trade Event?

    The Fair Trade Event designation recognizes events that demonstrate a strong commitment to fair trade and Fairtrade certified products. Through an Event, participants can learn about Fairtrade and the Standards using fun games or activities and promotes interaction and educational opportunities. To become a designated event, organizers need to submit a completed application form demonstrating compliance with specific requirements. .

  • How many Fairtrade products are there in Canada?

    Thousands!  There are currently almost 7000 Fairtrade certified products available for purchase in Canada.  From single products like coffee, sugar or flowers to composite products including ice cream or personal care products, the variety of products available is increasing year over year. Fairtrade products can be found at local and independent stores to national chains including grocery and health food.

  • What product categories does Fairtrade certify?

    Fairtrade Standards exist for the following products:

    Food products:

    - Bananas

    - Cocoa

    - Coffee

    - Dried Fruit

    - Fresh Fruit & Fresh Vegetables

    - Honey

    - Juices

    - Nuts/Oil Seeds/Oil

    - Quinoa

    - Rice

    - Spices

    - Sugar

    - Tea

    - Wine

    Non-food products:

    - Cosmetics

    - Cotton

    - Cut Flowers

    - Ornamental Plants

    - Sports Balls

    - Gold

    - Platinum

    - Silver

     

    Read more about the Standards here: www.fairtrade.net/standards.html

  • Where can I buy Fairtrade products?

    See our Buying Fairtrade page. We’ve listed all registered companies with Fairtrade Canada. We encourage you to contact these companies to find out where their Fairtrade product(s) is/are available.  Find Fairtrade products in supermarkets, independent shops, cafés, restaurants, through catering suppliers and wholesales, as well as online. Also check out local and independent shops as they often have product ranges not available in mainstream stores.

  • How do I stock Fairtrade certified products in my store?

    If you’re interested to retail Fairtrade products in your store, we invite you to check our Retailer page for some valuable information.

  • My local store doesn’t offer Fairtrade products. What can I do?

    You can order promotional material and resources from Fairtrade Canada that helps explain Fairtrade and the benefits to farmers and workers in the Global South. Try politely giving the materials to the store manager and ask them to stock Fairtrade certified products. And when they do, support them by telling others!

  • 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 is agreed as a fairer price, as well as the Fairtrade Premium to invest in the future of their communities. The Fairtrade price applies at the point where the producer organization 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.

  • Why isnt the Fairtrade price calculated as a percentage of the retail price

    We are often asked how much farmers receive from the retail price of a product sold on Fairtrade terms compared to the same product sold on conventional terms. While this type of comparison may appear to be a simple way to demonstrate the impact of Fairtrade from the consumer’s perspective, it doesn’t actually address the real inequities in typical conventional market arrangements.

    For producers, the value of Fairtrade is not about the relationship of their selling price to that of the finished product, but to their costs of production and the conventional market price. There are also many complex and variable factors to take into account in comparing different elements of the final price paid by consumers which can be misleading. For example, the price received by a cocoa or coffee producer selling to the conventional market depends on many factors including:

    -           - fluctuating international market prices - the producer ‘cut’ from a chocolate bar will vary according to the international price of cocoa at the time of sale and the percentage cocoa content of the bar

    -          - whether the producer is an independent smallholder or a plantation worker

    -          - whether the smallholder/co-operative/plantation carries out processing or other value-added operations

    -          - whether a smallholder sells directly to a local buyer or is a member of a co-operative

    -          - whether the co-operative sells to local traders or to auction, or exports the product on behalf of its members

    -          local trading conditions – these can vary greatly within a country let alone within different continents e.g. whether the industry has been liberalized or is state-regulated

    -          - the varying costs of production from country to country.

    Once the primary product is sold to a certified Fairtrade importer, the costs are similar to those for a conventional product – transport and export costs, shipping and insurance, import licenses and taxes, ripening or processing, packing, warehousing and distribution, marketing and promotion, and retailer overheads.

    Fairtrade Canada has no control or influence over commercial costs or margins. And because the major costs of the finished product are incurred after the producer has sold the commodity, the return to the producer will inevitably make up a relatively small percentage of the retail price.

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

    Some organizations, also called Alternative Trading Organizations (ATOs), are purely dedicated to trading fairly and have been doing so for many years before Fairtrade certification was established. You can find these organizations listed at WFTO. It can take a long time to agree upon new international Fairtrade Standards, and for many of the products these organizations sell, there may not yet be Standards available for their products.
     
    However some other companies make their own ‘fair trade’ claims without having the independent scrutiny of the FAIRTRADE Mark. 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 including the Fairtrade Premium, always look for the FAIRTRADE Mark.

  • Why aren’t handicrafts Fairtrade certified?

    Fairtrade certification and pricing were designed for commodity products. It is hard to adapt the Fairtrade model of standardized minimum pricing to crafts and other products made by small-scale artisans, which are unique, made of varied materials and have highly varied production processes and costs.

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

    Fairtrade Canada’s Commercial Relations team will guide you through the process. For more information read our For Business section of the website.

  • How can my producer group become Fairtrade certified?

    Contact FLOCERT - details are on their website

  • Who is responsible for setting Fairtrade Standards?

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

  • 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 marginalized or disadvantaged producers, therefore it was decided that the system as whole would support sustainable purchases from small-holder farmers . 

  • How does Fairtrade labeling work with composite products?

    Many Fairtrade products, such as coffee, tea, flowers, sugar and rice are 100% Fairtrade. However there are other products, such as cosmetics, ice cream and chocolate, in which the ingredients are a mixture of Fairtrade ingredients from developing countries (such as sugar, cocoa, shea butter and vanilla) and ingredients sourced more locally from domestic farmers (such as milk, flour or eggs). These are known as ‘composite products’.

    Fairtrade Canada has developed requirements for where and how the FAIRTRADE Mark may be used based on Fairtrade International policy.  The main principles of these requirements are:

    - 100% of any ingredient that can be Fairtrade certified, must be Fairtrade certified.

    - Any product may carry the FAIRTRADE Mark if more than 50% of its total ingredients (calculated by dry weight) are sourced from Fairtrade certified producer organizations.

    - If the total Fairtrade certified ingredient content is less than 50%, the product may still be eligible if it has one significant Fairtrade ingredient that represents more than 20% of the product’s dry weight. An example of a significant ingredient might be an orange juice drink made of 20% Fairtrade certified orange juice and the rest water.

    For more information, please visit our Product Composition page.

  • Are Fairtrade products fully traceable?

    For most Fairtrade products including bananas, fresh fruit, coffee, flowers, nuts, rice, spices and others, the Fairtrade system requires these products to be physically traceable. This means they must be labeled and kept separate at every stage of their journey from the farm to the store shelves. However, when we attempted to introduce similar rules for products such as cocoa, sugar, tea and juice, we discovered that there is very little physical traceability in the way these sectors work.

    For example, the chocolate industry is currently not always able to keep Fairtrade cocoa and non-Fairtrade cocoa separate at every stage of production from the cocoa field to the final bar. Cocoa beans are delivered in bulk by farmers and routinely mixed during shipping and in the manufacturing process.

    Rather than ruling out these sectors and losing Fairtrade sales opportunities for thousands of small farmers, Fairtrade has set up a system to ensure that manufacturers that want to use the FAIRTRADE Mark must buy the precise amount of produce they need from Fairtrade farmers that will be used in their final product. This system is known as ‘mass balance’. 

    So, if a chocolate bar manufacturer uses 550 tons of cocoa, then the manufacturer must purchase 550 tons of cocoa on Fairtrade terms, including the payment of an additional $200 Fairtrade Premium per metric ton. This means that even if the beans are later mixed with non-Fairtrade beans, as often happens, Fairtrade cocoa farmers still get 100% of the benefits. 

    Our mission is to support farmers and workers in the developing world to increase their share in global trade. Fairtrade’s stringent inspection and audit system is in place to ensure the amount of Fairtrade product manufactured exactly matches the amount of Fairtrade product purchased.

  • Is buying Fairtrade products a good idea given concerns on climate change?

    There is no doubt that far-reaching global action has to be taken now to deal with climate change. However if the debate around this issue becomes overly concerned with the question of food miles, this could severely damage opportunities for sustainable forms of export agriculture to contribute to the economic and social development of poor farmers and workers.

    Agriculture can play a critical role in the economic and social development of developing countries. In Africa, agriculture is the continent’s number one source of growth 

    While an international consensus has been reached on the science of climate change, what is now needed is a balanced debate on the best way forward to reduce the impact of climate change while also supporting developing countries in tackling poverty and promoting sustainable development.

  • Can buying Fairtrade products help to tackle climate change?

    Farmers and workers must meet environmental Standards as part of certification. Producers are required to work to protect the natural environment and make environmental protection a part of farm management. They are also encouraged to minimize the use of energy, especially from non-renewable sources.

    By choosing Fairtrade, shoppers in Canada are ensuring that farmers and workers receive a Fairtrade Premium to invest in economic, social and environmental products of their own choice. It means they can implement a range of environmental protection programs which contribute to the range of solutions needed to address climate change and ultimately benefit us all. 

    For example, tea workers in India have invested some of their Fairtrade Premium into replacing the traditional wood-burning heating with a solar-paneled system. Coffee farmers in Costa Rica have used the premium to replant trees to prevent soil erosion and have invested in environmentally friendly ovens, fueled by recycled coffee hulls and the dried shells of macadamia nuts. This means that they no longer need to cut forest trees and can therefore preserve the rainforest and the oxygen they produce.

    By choosing Fairtrade products, you can help farmers and workers preserve their own environment and allow them to have a positive social benefit in their community.

    Climate change hits the poorest in developing countries hardest. This includes people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture. Through the Fairtrade Premium, farmers and workers have a little extra to use when harvests fail, or if they need to change to growing a different crop if the climate becomes unsuitable for the way they currently farm.

  • Are Fairtrade certified products also organic?

    Not necessarily. Fairtrade Standards require sustainable farming techniques and require higher prices to be paid for organic products. Moreover, Fairtrade Premiums are often used to train producers in organic and sustainable techniques like composting and using recycled materials, which can help them to convert to organic production in the future.

  • What about Genetically Modified Organisms

    There has been much concern among consumers over GMO crops. Many worry about the risks of environmental contamination and it has been argued that producer dependence on the use of GM seeds could outweigh the benefits of the crops. 

    The Fairtrade system’s environmental Standards and guidelines currently forbid the use of GM seeds by farmers, and encourage active monitoring in nearby fields. However, it may not always be possible for small farmers to prevent contamination from a neighboring field, and therefore we do not label Fairtrade products as 100% GM free.

  • Why doesn’t the FAIRTRADE Mark apply to Canadian farmers?

    The FAIRTRADE Mark was established specifically to support the most disadvantaged producers in the world by using trade as a tool for sustainable development. We do recognize that many farmers in Canada face similar issues as farmers elsewhere, not least ensuring that they get a decent return for upholding social and environmental standards in their production. 

    However, there are also some major differences. For example, farmers in developing countries often have little infrastructural support, social security systems or other safety nets available if they cannot get a fair price for their products. Our Fairtrade Standards, and our expertise, are specifically focused on enabling producers in developing countries to tackle poverty through trade. If Fairtrade Canada diverted its own attention from this mission, this could potentially end up diluting the benefits of Fairtrade for the very farmers and workers we were established to support.

    We agree that the principles behind fair trade may provide useful insight into the debate on improving the situation for Canadian producers. However, Fairtrade Canada is not convinced that a labeling scheme is the right solution to the problems affecting Canadian farmers. A plethora of similar sounding labeling initiatives could result in confusion for consumers and undermine both the local cause and the global situation we care so deeply about. 

    Rather than yet another label, Fairtrade Canada believes a more rigorous investigation by government and the industry itself is needed. This should look into the causes behind the problems being experienced by domestic producers, so that more robust and wide reaching policy tools can be identified – to benefit all affected farmers, and to reassure all concerned shoppers.

  • Some people say buy local rather than buy Fairtrade - what is Fairtrade Canada’s response?

    Buy both! We support the promotion of sustainable production for Canadian farmers but our specific role will continue to be supporting farmers in the Global South.

    Fairtrade isn’t in competition with Canadian farmers and buying local and buying Fairtrade need not be mutually exclusive. Fairtrade focuses mainly on products such as coffee and bananas that can’t be grown in temperate climates or products that can’t be grown in sufficient quantities in Canada. For some items such as honey and flowers, local supply is not able to meet the total demand and so imports are necessary to meet it. Other products are seasonal so as long as shoppers want to buy fruit out of season, for example, there will be a demand for these products from other countries. 

  • Can I put the FAIRTRADE Mark on my website or promotional materials?

    If your company or organization is a registered licensee or has signed a Marketing Agreement with Fairtrade Canada, you can put the FAIRTRADE Mark on your website and promotional materials in accordance with our Mark Use Guidelines. Find out more about using the FAIRTRADE Mark here.

  • Where can I get free promotional materials

    We can supply limited quantities of free promotional materials to support activities, events, and initiatives around the education and promotion of Fairtrade certified products. Refer to our Promotional Material and Resources page for more information

  • Can someone come and give a talk to my group

    We receive many requests every day and are unfortunately unable to accept every invitation. Write to us at communications@fairtrade.ca and we will happily discuss your request with you!

  • Where can I get free samples of Fairtrade products for an event?

    Fairtrade Canada doesn’t keep any stock of Fairtrade certified products and as a result, are unable to ship samples to events. Refer to our Buying Fairtrade page which lists licensees who supply Fairtrade certified products and get in touch with them to learn more. You can also contact us at communications@fairtrade.ca.

  • I am a student doing a project on Fairtrade. Can Fairtrade Canada send me information?

    We are very pleased that so many students produce dissertations and projects on various aspects of Fairtrade! Unfortunately, limited time and resources make it difficult to reply to each incoming request. Please use our website as a source of information; alternatively, you can search for any of our other NFO (National Fairtrade Organization) websites or refer to Fairtrade International

  • How do I visit a Fairtrade producer group?

    Fairtrade International has informed us that farmers and workers groups are receiving increasing numbers of requests to host visits from the general public. Many groups regret that they are unable to host visits because of their lack of resources and the disruption caused to their work. If there is a clear and definite positive outcome for the producer organization such as media coverage or project funding arising from a visit, we would be happy to discuss your needs; please get in touch with us at communications@fairtrade.ca.


    A growing number of Fairtrade certified producer groups are diversifying into tourism as an alternative source of income. Please note that Fairtrade Canada claims no responsibility for these independent projects. 

    Here is a short list of that you can research:


    Tanzania: Kahawa Shamba is a community-based project, half-owned by KNCU, a Fairtrade certified coffee co-operative


    India: Makaibari Tea Estate in Darjeeling hosts tourists


    Nicaragua: Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign organizes study tours including visits to Fairtrade coffee producer groups


    Costa Rica: Coope Santa Elena is one of nine coffee co-operatives that are members of the Coocafe Co-operative Union. They ave a visitor program and support local study tours.


    Belize: The Toledo Ecotourism Association runs guesthouses and walks in small communities where farmers sell their cocoa under Fairtrade terms.


    Ecuador:El Guabo Banana Growers’ Co-operative provides an opportunity to learn about Fairtrade and organic banana production.