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The principle of Fair Trade

Fair Trade – a contribution to sustainable development

The wide range of Fairtrade products

"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."

This definition of "Fair Trade" was adopted in 2001 by FINE, an informal association of the four main fair trade networks.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports Fair Trade in Germany and provides information about how Fair Trade works, about Fair Trade products and the importance of Fair Trade when it comes to combating global poverty, because consumers play an important role in global trade. Their decisions on what to buy can directly impact on working and living conditions in developing countries. Fair Trade can help participating producers to set up local organisations and engage in sustainable production with a view to improving their living and working conditions.

The principle

Ruben, a Fairtrade coffee grower from Peru

In practice, Fair Trade works as follows: The trade organisations involved agree certain minimum purchase quantities with producers (production and other cooperatives, socially responsible businesses). A price is also set for the goods that covers the costs of socially and environmentally sustainable production.

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International – Fairtrade International (FLO) for short – sets a minimum price for most fairly traded products. A Fair Trade premium is also paid for community projects to build schools and wells for drinking water, subsidise doctor’s appointments or to switch from conventional to biological farming methods, for example.

The arrangements made with trade organisations secure sales for producers and give small farmers from disadvantaged regions in the South access to markets in industrialised countries.

In Germany, Fair Trade products are sold in traditional retail outlets as well as in more than 800 specialist stores known as "one world shops". Fair Trade products are now available in almost all German supermarkets, health food and whole food shops, department stores and drug stores, and can be purchased by mail order or online. Many pubs, cafés and restaurants also offer fairly traded products.


The Fairtrade label

TransFair-Siegel. Urheberrecht: TransFairFairly traded products carry a certification label that consumers can easily recognise. In Germany, the most well-known Fairtrade label is that of Fairtrade International (FLO), which in Germany, is awarded by the independent, non-profit organisation TransFair e.V., a charity funded by various organisations from different fields such as development cooperation, the church, social work, consumer protection, cooperatives, education, politics and the environment.

Several thousand products bearing the "Fairtrade” label are now available on the German market. Traditionally the most important Fairtrade-certified product is coffee. Other examples are tea, orange juice, chocolate, bananas, honey, sugar, wine, rice, footballs, cosmetics, flowers, wood and cotton clothing. In 2014, 1.027 billion euros of fairly traded products were sold in Germany, with 797 million euros being spent on articles with the Fairtrade label. In 2015, turnover generated by Fairtrade products increased to 978 million euros.

About 1.65 million small farmers, their families and labourers working in cooperatives and plantations in 74 African, Asian and Latin American countries have benefited from the Fairtrade system.


Fair Trade campaigns

Cities and towns in Germany are key partners for development cooperation. Since 2009, towns in Germany can apply for the status of a "Fairtrade Town". Worldwide there are already more than 1,800 Fairtrade Towns, 400 of which are in Germany. Applicants for the title need to fulfil different criteria, one of which is that fairly traded products (such as coffee, tea and sugar) are served in public institutions.

The Fairtrade Schools campaign has been running since 2012. Pupils, parents and teachers come together to set up a Fairtrade School team and to draft a Fair Trade compass for their school. The compass aims to incorporate the topic of Fair Trade in different subjects for a range of classes, to run routine awareness-raising activities and ensure that fairly traded products are used in school canteens, for example.

For the 2014 summer semester, TransFair e.V. also launched a Fairtrade University Campaign to encourage students, administrative staff and staff in canteens, cafes, pubs and shops on campus to work together to raise awareness of the importance of Fair Trade.

A separate competition is run for trainees in the retail sector. Since 2012, TransFair e.V. has challenged them to compete for the title of "Germany's fairest trainee" and to make the concept of Fair Trade more tangible by coming up with creative ideas for raising its profile in supermarkets.


The Fair Trade Forum

Several German organisations that either operate in the Fair Trade sector or support it have set up the "Forum Fairer Handel" (Fair Trade forum) network. Its aim is to jointly lobby politicians and businesses in order to expand Fair Trade even further.

The forum is the umbrella association that represents key Fair Trade organisations in Germany. Together with the "one world shop" umbrella organisation, it is an important strategic partner for the BMZ in terms of development cooperation in the Fair Trade sector.

At the international level, the various actors have also joined forces in umbrella organisations to lobby for their interests.


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