#BeFair: Fair Trade vs. Fairtrade

Did you know there were two fair trade organizations? Answer with a YES or NO in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a Fair Trade gift bag.

Huh? There are two fair trade certifications?

Yes, there are. As of 2011 Fair Trade USA, formerly known as Transfair, and Fairtrade International parted ways.

Who has a bigger and better impact? Fair Trade wonks can argue about this all day. From my view, their goal is the same: improve the lives of farmers. They both set minimum prices for farmers and pay social premiums back to farmers. These two points set them above all other certifications in my opinion.

The trick with any certification is that the stricter the environmental and social standards, the fewer farmers and laborers who benefit from the standards. Yet, if the standards are too watered down they’ll have less of an impact on the lives of the farmers.

Breaking down the Fair Trades


The leading fair trade certifier in the United States, which works with more than 750 brands, retailers and importers. A people-focused certification that emphasizes empowering farmers and farm workers so that they can improve their lives and protect the planet.  A Fair Trade premium goes back to the community and the cooperative decides how to spend it. Sets a minimum price for every crop to protect against any drops in the market. Fair Trade coffee must be 100% certified.

Popular brands that offer Fair Trade products:

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Archer Farms (at Target), Honest Tea, Newman’s Own, Numi Tea, Alter-Eco, Mama Ganeche.

More info at www.fairtradeusa.org


The U.S. branch of the Germany-based Fairtrade International, which opened in 2012 when Fair Trade USA made the decision to separate from Fairtrade International. This organization has many of its standards in common with Fair Trade USA, including the fair trade premium and minimum price, although the execution of those standards and those who execute them may vary. The main difference is that Fairtrade International only works with cooperatives when possible, such as those for coffee, cocoa, and sugar. They do certify tea and banana plantations, but not coffee.

Fair Trade USA believes that laborers on plantations and other small non-cooperative coffee farmer groups can benefit from the Fair Trade standards. Fairtrade International believes that working outside of traditional cooperative dilutes the effectiveness of fair trade.

Who’s on first? I just wrote all that and I’m still confused. In a Fair Trade nutshell: Fairtrade International focuses on the small farmers when possible and Fair Trade USA believes they can increase the reach of fair trade by working with co-ops, farmers groups, and plantations. For instance, under Fairtrade International’s standards, the coffee farmers I met in Narino could not be certified, but under Fair Trade USA they can.

Popular brands that offer products certified by Fairtrade International:

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Green & Black’s chocolate, Divine Chocolate, Wholesome Sweeteners.

More info at www.fairtrade.net

If you’re interested in learning about the impact or in some cases the lack of impact that certifications have on the lives of individual farmers, I break down the Fair Trades and other certs, including Rainforest Alliance, Utz, and Whole Trade in my latest book Where Am I Eating?  

Did you know there were two fair trade organizations? Answer with a YES or NO in the comments and you’ll be entered to win a Fair Trade gift bag.

Terri DeVries says:

No, I did not know that.

Paul Skrade says:

I just found out that you’ll be coming to speak at Knox College in the spring so thought I would do a little reading about you. I honestly didn’t know there were two Fair Trade organizations.

Right away I am going away to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming over again to read more news.

Let your voice be heard!