Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between “fair” and “free” trade?
What is the difference between “fair trade” and “Fairtrade”?
How are fair trade products regulated?
How can I ensure that the product I am buying is fair trade?
What is a Fair Trade Town?
A common misunderstanding! We hear about free trade in the media often, but what does that have to do with fair trade? The simplest answer is that they are two different ideas which have little connection.
Free trade is a system of trade policy that allows traders to trade across national boundaries without interference from the respective governments. In Canada we have several free trade agreements with many other countries.
Fair trade is about making changes to conventional trade, which frequently fails to deliver on promises of sustainable livelihoods for people in developing countries. It seeks to change the terms of trade for the products we buy—to ensure the farmers and artisans behind those products get a better deal. This includes fair prices, social and economic premiums, fair and safe labour, environmental sustainability, access to credit, and long-term contracts for producers.
Fair trade refers to a social movement of accountability when purchasing products, making the connection between where those products were produced and what impact the production of these products has on the local environment and economy.
Fair trade, as described in the previous question is a social movement to bring dignity and a standard of living to producers in developing regions of the world. Fairtrade refers to the specific fair trade certification system run by Fairtrade International (FLO) and its members, including Fairtrade Canada. For more information please visit the Fairtrade International website.
Fair trade certification begins with producers—usually democratic associations of small-scale farmers who grow the raw ingredients in Fairtrade Certified products. Producers have to meet a variety of criteria that focus on a range of areas including labour standards, sustainable farming, governance, and democratic participation.
Producers report their sales of products to fair trade buyers to Fairtrade International (the organization that Fairtrade Canada is part of), which also conducts on-site audits to ensure producers continue to meet the standards.
The best way to ensure that products are fair trade is to look for the certifier’s symbol on the packaging. The certification process ensures that only products that have met strict fair trade standards can carry the appropriate certification symbol. There are several certifiers of fair trade products, some with even stricter policies than others. The gold standard of fair trade product certification is Fairtrade International (which Fairtrade Canada operates under), but FTOÉ also considers the Fair Trade Federation, the World Fair Trade Organization and the Small Producers’ Symbol standards high enough to be considered genuine fair trade. You can visit each certifier’s website to learn more about their exact standards and familiarize yourself with their certification symbol.
Because more and more people are supporting fair trade, companies can benefit from advertising their products as fair trade, whether they are certified or not. Products that are not officially certified may still meet the same fair trade standards required for certification, but only the certification symbol guarantees that the product meets these criteria.
A Fair Trade Town is a town that has complied with Fairtrade Canada’s requirements and actively pursued Fair Trade Town status. For more information about what needs to be done before Ottawa can get the stamp of approval, please visit the Fairtrade Canada website.