What exactly is Fairtrade?

What is fairtrade? Well, the clue is in the name, and helpfully the Fairtrade Foundation puts it simply, ‘Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world’. But what does that actually look like?

Fairtrade puts this into action by paying a ‘Fairtrade minimum price.’ This guarantees producers receive a price which covers the costs of growing the crop. However, when the market price for the product is above the minimum price, the trader must pay the higher price. In other words, no corners are cut, and the producers are not left short. As well as paying the fair minimum price, Fairtrade also has the ‘Fairtrade Premium’. This is what makes Fairtrade a little different from lots of other ethical brands. The Fairtrade premium is an additional sum of money paid on top of the minimum price, intended to be invested in social, environmental and economic development projects, to provide long term benefits for the farmers and their communities.

However, Fairtrade isn’t the only ethical brand, there are plenty to choose from! But are they all really ethical? Here’s low-down of a few other ethical brands.

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance is a network of farmers, foresters, communities, governments, environmentalists and businesses dedicated to conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods. It is committed to delivering fair pay to the farmers that produce the crops. However, their biggest priority is to provide ethically-sourced products that protect wildlife and prevent climate change. They do this by training farmers, foresters and tourism entrepreneurs to minimise their environmental impacts, while earning stable incomes.

In a few words, the Rainforest Alliance focuses on the management of land and the people who farm it. Making sure their farmers’ businesses grow, while caring for the natural environment around them.

Soil association

The Soil Association is a membership charity. They campaign for healthy, humane and sustainable food, farming and land use. In the supermarket you will probably recognise their logo which appears on most British grown veg. They created an independent certification body called Soil Association Certification which carries out inspection and awards organic certification to farms and businesses. Similar to the Rainforest Alliance, the Soil Association mainly focuses on environmentally-friendly ways of producing. However instead of operating in exotic farmlands, the Soil Association focuses on goods closer to home (most of which are grown on British soil and predominantly within the EU), encouraging people to farm responsibly, eat healthily and live in balance with the environment.

The Soil Association takes a broad approach to transforming the food industry. Their work aims to make the whole process of getting food from the ground to the dining table as environmentally-friendly as possible – because there have to be many ways in which we solve the issues in our food and farming industry.

Single Origin Coffee (Rave Coffee)

Fairtrade, the Rainforest Alliance and the Soil Association are trademarks which can be put on any product that is part of their scheme or meets their requirements. However, there are many product-specific organisations which are trying to do their bit to promote ethical producing. One of these is Rave Coffee which prides itself on its single origin coffee.

Rave Coffee focus on providing training and facilities in order to support coffee farmers who want to become involved in the specialty coffee market. To help do this they connect farmers and roasters (the guys you see in quirky coffee shops) through internships and funding roasting workshops – closing the gaps between the people who grow the coffee and the people serve it.

These four brands are only a few of many which try to make the food industry a fairer place. They all call for different things, whether that be fairer wages, organic products, or careful use of farming land. So the next time you’re in the supermarket, consider swapping in some ethical brands. There are so many out there to choose from; your everyday purchases have a massive impact on the people and environment around you.