What Is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade & Sustainability

Building strong economies in partnership with producers, fostering thriving communities, and living within the limits of what our environment can sustain.

Empowering Producers and Protecting the Planet through Sustainable Trade

Whether it’s taking action to improve incomes, training farmers to be more resilient to climate change, or enabling communities to invest in education, Fairtrade empowers farmers and workers to face a range of economic, environmental and social challenges.

Fairtrade is also about supporting and challenging businesses and governments to make trade fair, and inspiring shoppers to think more about what they buy.

Why does Fairtrade mean sustainable trade?

There is a lot of talk about sustainability at the moment, but what impact can Fairtrade have in building a sustainable future for us all? Here’s why Fairtrade means sustainable trade.

Fighting for Climate Resilient Communities

For farmers and workers in the Global South, climate change is not a far-off challenge. It is their everyday life. They are already experiencing decreasing crop yields, soil erosion, pests, diseases and changing weather patterns. This changing reality affects farmers and their communities directly in the form of:

  • Income loss
  • Food insecurity
  • The need to change their business models
  • Increased costs for adaptation and mitigation

Supporting farmers to adapt to climate change

The effects of climate change are having an impact on crops and reducing yield. See how Fairtrade is helping tea farmers in Kenya.

Fairtrade and the Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious set of 17 global Goals intended to combat poverty and achieve sustainable development by 2030.

Covering topics from gender equality to climate change, and education to clean drinking water, the SDGs represent a powerful opportunity to improve the lives of the 1.3 billion small scale farmers and agricultural workers upon whom the world depends to produce our food and protect our planet.

Photo from trainings for 2nd cohort of Women's School of Leadership in Cote d'Ivoire. July 2019-July 2020. 30 women and 10 men from 7 cooperatives in western Cote d'Ivoire participated in this programme. Cooperatives: SOCOOPAR, CAUD, CABF, SOCASIB (member of ECOOKIM union), CPRCANAAN, ECAM, SOCOOPEM.

But we still have a lot of work to do if we want to achieve these Goals. More than 780 million people live below the international poverty line, 152 million children are still involved in child labour, and climate change is already threatening vulnerable communities. What’s more, the Goals only provide a framework. It’s up to us all, but especially governments, businesses, and civil society, to take action to ensure they are achieved.

The SDGs aim to end poverty “in all its forms, everywhere”, while leaving no one behind. This ambition is central to Fairtrade’s mission. In fact, of the 169 targets underlying the SDGs, there is barely a single one that isn’t somehow related to food and farming.

Sustainable Trade for Sustainable Development

Fairtrade has a crucial role in sustainable development. Nearly all the 169 targets which underpin the global goals are somehow related to food and farming. Fairtrade focuses on eight SDGs where we can really make a difference.

Our 8 Focus Areas

Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

This Goal is central to Fairtrade’s mission. All of our work stems from this, as we seek to ensure that trade enables smallholder farmers and workers to earn a decent living and have a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Goal 2: Zero Hunger

Small-scale farmers provide a large percentage of the world’s population with food. That means creating robust livelihoods is crucial for achieving this Goal. Fairtrade enables more secure and stable incomes for small-scale farmers, and supports them to build strong, resilient businesses.

Goal 5: Gender Equality

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has identified that overcoming gender inequalities can reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 150 million. Fairtrade empowers women to overcome discrimination, participate equally in agriculture, and earn more income.

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth

Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all

In line with the International Labour Organization and national legislation, Fairtrade promotes better working conditions, supports workers to negotiate for better pay, and is striving to achieve living incomes for all farmers and workers. Our Standards prohibit child and forced labour in all cases.

Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production

Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Sustainable production practices are at the core of what Fairtrade does. However, through our campaigns and advocacy work, we also bring together thousands of communities and millions of shoppers worldwide to campaign for more ethical trade.

Goal 13: Climate action

Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Small-scale farmers are already bearing the brunt of a changing climate, even though they can have a low carbon footprint. Fairtrade works with producer organisations and climate experts to build farmers’ resilience to diseases, extreme weather, and other climate-driven impacts.

Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions

Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies

Fairtrade focuses on building democracy from the ground up. Producers are equal owners of Fairtrade. From deciding on how to use their Fairtrade Premium, right up to determining global Fairtrade strategy, producers (including women, men, youth, migrants, and people with disabilities) have a strong voice, and are empowered to demand accountability of their organizations.

Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Goal 17: Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Power imbalances in supply chains that favour companies over small-scale farmers in the Global South can be a barrier to implementing the SDGs. Fairtrade works with multiple partners – producer organizations, businesses, trade unions, civil society, governments, and other multi-stakeholder bodies. Together we can support governments to build policies that enable fairer trade for all, and which deliver on the SDGs’ ambitious agenda.

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