Democratic Co-ops & Associations
Most Fair Trade goods are produced by groups of small-scale farmers. These producers are organized into co-operatives or associations, which they own and govern democratically. Cocoa, sugar, cotton, coffee, herbs and spices all come exclusively from small producer organizations.
There are Fair Trade standards related to social, economic, and environment development, as well as labour conditions for small producer organizations. Read the small producer standards here.
Through the co-operative model, producers unite to meet their common economic and social needs. Co-operatives are jointly-owned and governed democratically by producers.
All co-operatives have an elected Board of Directors. There is also a General Assembly; producers either join this body directly or elect delegates to represent them. This body is responsible for decision-making, and determines how the Fair Trade premium can best be used to meet community needs.
|Photo: Eric St-Pierre|
So what are co-ops all about?
Solidarity. Co-ops bring producers together, united over common interests.
Democracy. All members have a voice and vote in the decision-making process of the organization. They know what their communities need and can make decisions accordingly.
Independence. Co-ops are autonomous and controlled by their members.
Balance. Co-ops balance the need for profitability with the needs of their members and the wider interests of the community.
Networks. Co-ops work together, making the co-operative movement stronger.
There are also standards for small-scale producers who are not yet organized into co-operatives or associations, although this is considered a temporary measure until they form an independent organization. These producers can join the Fair Trade system through a partnership with an organization, such as an exporter or NGO. Read the contract standards here.