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« Fair trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South. Fair trade organizations, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade [1] ».
Since its emergence in the 1960s, fair trade has evolved a lot, between labelling, proliferation of fair shops and the opening to volume retailing. This latter has been a matter of critics and differences within the conception of fair trade showing the tensions between commercial objectives of volume retailing shops and the social objective of fair trade [2].

[1Definition of Fair trade given by FINE (a network that gathers Fairtrade Labelling Organisations International, International Fair Trade Association, Network of European World Shops & European Fair Trade Association), 2001

[2For more information in French on this issue : Peuples Solidaires, À contre courant, la grande distribution (agro alimentaire et textile) et ses impacts sociaux et environnementaux pour commerce équitable - Grande distribution : des pratiques à dénoncer, Dph, 07 / 2010 : ; & Ingénieurs sans frontières, Les enjeux de la normalisation pour les produits issus de l’agriculture des pays du sud, Dossier Dph, Juin 2011:

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Définition développée

The WFTO added 10 principles to this definition, which are:
- « Principle One: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers: Poverty reduction through trade forms a key part of the organization’s aims. The organization supports marginalized small producers, whether these are independent family businesses, or grouped in associations or co-operatives. It seeks to enable them to move from income insecurity and poverty to economic self-sufficiency and ownership. The organization has a plan of action to carry this out.
- Principle Two: Transparency and Accountability: The organization is transparent in its management and commercial relations. It is accountable to all its stakeholders and respects the sensitivity and confidentiality of commercial information supplied. The organization finds appropriate, participatory ways to involve employees, members and producers in its decision-making processes. It ensures that relevant information is provided to all its trading partners. The communication channels are good and open at all levels of the supply chain.
- Principle Three: Fair Trading Practices: The organization trades with concern for the social, economic and environmental well-being of marginalized small producers and does not maximize profit at their expense. It is responsible and professional in meeting its commitments in a timely manner. Suppliers respect contracts and deliver products on time and to the desired quality and specifications.
Fair Trade buyers, recognizing the financial disadvantages producers and suppliers face, ensure orders are paid on receipt of documents and according to the attached guidelines. An interest free pre-payment of at least 50% is made if requested.
Where southern Fair Trade suppliers receive a pre payment from buyers, they ensure that this payment is passed on to the producers or farmers who make or grow their Fair Trade products.
Buyers consult with suppliers before canceling or rejecting orders. Where orders are cancelled through no fault of producers or suppliers, adequate compensation is guaranteed for work already done. Suppliers and producers consult with buyers if there is a problem with delivery, and ensure compensation is provided when delivered quantities and qualities do not match those invoiced.
The organization maintains long term relationships based on solidarity, trust and mutual respect that contribute to the promotion and growth of Fair Trade. It maintains effective communication with its trading partners. Parties involved in a trading relationship seek to increase the volume of the trade between them and the value and diversity of their product offer as a means of growing Fair Trade for the producers in order to increase their incomes. The organization works cooperatively with the other Fair Trade Organizations in country and avoids unfair competition. It avoids duplicating the designs of patterns of other organizations without permission.
Fair Trade recognizes, promotes and protects the cultural identity and traditional skills of small producers as reflected in their craft designs, food products and other related services.
- Principle Four: Payment of a Fair Price
A fair price is one that has been mutually agreed by all through dialogue and participation, which provides fair pay to the producers and can also be sustained by the market. Where Fair Trade pricing structures exist, these are used as a minimum. Fair pay means provision of socially acceptable remuneration (in the local context) considered by producers themselves to be fair and which takes into account the principle of equal pay for equal work by women and men. Fair Trade marketing and importing organizations support capacity building as required to producers, to enable them to set a fair price.
- Principle Five: Ensuring no Child Labor and Forced Labor: The organization adheres to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national / local law on the employment of children. The organization ensures that there is no forced labor in its workforce and / or members or homeworkers.
Organizations who buy Fair Trade products from producer groups either directly or through intermediaries ensure that no forced labor is used in production and the producer complies with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and national / local law on the employment of children. Any involvement of children in the production of Fair Trade products (including learning a traditional art or craft) is always disclosed and monitored and does not adversely affect the children’s well-being, security, educational requirements and need for play.
- Principle Six: Commitment to Non Discrimination, Gender Equity and Freedom of Association: The organization does not discriminate in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, HIV/Aids status or age. The organization provides opportunities for women and men to develop their skills and actively promotes applications from women for job vacancies and for leadership positions in the organization. The organization takes into account the special health and safety needs of pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers. Women fully participate in decisions concerning the use of benefits accruing from the production process.
The organization respects the right of all employees to form and join trade unions of their choice and to bargain collectively. Where the right to join trade unions and bargain collectively are restricted by law and/or political environment, the organization will enable means of independent and free association and bargaining for employees. The organization ensures that representatives of employees are not subject to discrimination in the workplace.
Organizations working directly with producers ensure that women are always paid for their contribution to the production process, and when women do the same work as men they are paid at the same rates as men. Organizations also seek to ensure that in production situations where women’s work is valued less highly than men’s work, women’s work is re- valued to equalize pay rates and women are allowed to undertake work according to their capacities.
- Principle Seven: Ensuring Good Working Conditions
The organization provides a safe and healthy working environment for employees and / or members. It complies, at a minimum, with national and local laws and ILO conventions on health and safety.
Working hours and conditions for employees and / or members (and any homeworkers) comply with conditions established by national and local laws and ILO conventions.
Fair Trade Organizations are aware of the health and safety conditions in the producer groups they buy from. They seek, on an ongoing basis, to raise awareness of health and safety issues and improve health and safety practices in producer groups.
- Principle Eight: Providing Capacity Building
The organization seeks to increase positive developmental impacts for small, marginalized producers through Fair Trade.
The organization develops the skills and capabilities of its own employees or members. Organizations working directly with small producers develop specific activities to help these producers improve their management skills, production capabilities and access to markets - local / regional / international / Fair Trade and mainstream as appropriate. Organizations which buy Fair Trade products through Fair Trade intermediaries in the South assist these organizations to develop their capacity to support the marginalized producer groups that they work with.
- Principle Nine: Promoting Fair Trade
The organization raises awareness of the aim of Fair Trade and of the need for greater justice in world trade through Fair Trade. It advocates for the objectives and activities of Fair Trade according to the scope of the organization. The organization provides its customers with information about itself, the products it markets, and the producer organizations or members that make or harvest the products. Honest advertising and marketing techniques are always used.
- Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment
Organizations which produce Fair Trade products maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. They use production technologies that seek to reduce energy consumption and where possible use renewable energy technologies that minimize greenhouse gas emissions. They seek to minimize the impact of their waste stream on the environment. Fair Trade agricultural commodity producers minimize their environmental impacts, by using organic or low pesticide use production methods wherever possible.
Buyers and importers of Fair Trade products give priority to buying products made from raw materials that originate from sustainably managed sources, and have the least overall impact on the environment.
All organizations use recycled or easily biodegradable materials for packing to the extent possible, and goods are dispatched by sea wherever possible.. [1] ».
Since then, « the principles and objectives of fair trade are based on a rigorous international system of control, checkout and certification. The international system of fair trade is structured with the aim of producing the following results for the small farm workers of the south:
- a fair price [2]
- environnemental practices which promote a sustainable development
- the improvement of social services
- investments in the local economic infrastructure [3] ».
Thus, « […] fair trade involves producers, distributors and consumers in a sustainable development oriented relation of cooperation and solidarity. This approach aims at exceeding the North/South dimension and developing commercial transactions North/North and South/South [4] ».
However, according to the platform for fair trade, we can distinguish two different approaches within fair trade, which are:
- an « Alternative approach : an approach of fair trade which corresponds to the global value chain, which advocates for an other organization of international trade, a breaking-off with the current rules, a revision of international institutions (WTO, International Financial Institutions) and the establishment of new partnerships. It foresees the development of fair trade in autonomy, apart from conventional trade and in a qualitative way. Refusing the collaboration with big retailing networks, the alternative approach engages itself to assure the distribution and the commercialization of products through fair agents.
- Reformist approach: an approach which corresponds to the functioning mode of a certified value chain that uses the vectors of conventional trade with the objective of progressively improving their practices. Its defenders consider that development of fair trade will achieve through democratization and generalization. The importance of sale volume increase justifies then to work with volume retailing or multinational companies to reach a broader public [5] ».

[1WFTO, 10 Principles of Fair Trade, 06 October 2011 :

[2of which the platform for fair trade specifies that it should, for their product and their work, « cover expenses related to production, the basic needs of the producer and it should allow to obtain sufficient earnings for better community life conditions. Prices are collectively fixed by fair trade organisms and producers. The fair price, in the sense it is certified in a long term-basis, allows the producers to obtain a stable income », free from market fluctuations. Free translation of: Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Equitable (PFCE), Le Commerce équitable & ses acteurs en 40 mots (Glossaire) :

[3Source (free translation):

[4free translation of a definition extract from Ritimo, Glossary:

[5free translation of: Plate-Forme pour le Commerce Equitable (PFCE), Glossaire, op. cit.

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