Personal tools
You are here: Home Resources Fair Trade
Log in

Forgot your password?

About Fair Trade

Maria Isabel speaksWhat is Fair Trade?

At its base, Fair Trade is an alternative way of doing business; one that builds long-term, transparent and mutually beneficial partnerships between consumers and producers.

True fair trade goes beyond certifications, prices, and labels.  It's is built and rooted in a relationship that has to be carefully navigated and constantly nurtured.  It is practiced under terms of sustainability and transparency.  It requires an earnest engagement with and a dedication to the small scale farmers and the organizations to which they belong. 

According to the Fair Trade Federation, nine key principles form the basis of fair trade: to create opportunities for marginalized producers, to develop transparent relationships, to build capacity, to promote fair trade, to pay promptly and fairly, to support empowering working conditions, to ensure children's rights, to cultivate environmental stewardship, and to respect cultural identity.  All of these principles can be viewed along with case studies of companies and organizations (even some of Coop Coffees' very own member-roasters!) who have incorporated them as best practices, at  Coop Coffees continually strives to promote and practice all of these principles and goals in what we do and how we do it.

A Bit of History

Follow this link to get a brief history of how Fair Trade got started.

Fair Trade Principles and Criteria

Each certifying body and association have their own list of principles or certification criteria that specify what to them embodies Fair Trade.  They all approach each other, though there are some subtle though significant variations.  If you are curious to find out more, you can take a look at the links below for the principles assigned by each organization.

Important Organizations and Certifiers

Fair trade "certification" can apply to either a product or to a company/organization.  It's important to distinguish a company that sells a portion of Fair Trade Certified products (as verified by the FLO/Transfair system, for example) and a company that is holistically committed to the movement (as verified by FTF, for example). 


  • The Fair Trade Federation is a trade association of the dedicated Fair Trade companies in North America.  Membership in FTF can be an additional indicator to a consumer that a company is fully committed to Fair Trade.  However, it is important to note that they are not a certifying body. 
  • Visit for more about this association


  •  WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization - formerly IFAT) is an international association of over 350 organizations and companies dedicated to Fair Trade principles in over 70 different countries.  Approximately two-thirds of the members are producer groups.

  • The FTO (Fair Trade Organisation) mark can be displayed in a store or on documentation, but not on the products themselves as WFTO corresponds to companies and organizations
  • Check out for more!



  • FLO is an umbrella organization comprised of 20 Labelling Initiaves, including Transfair USA and Transfair Canada which control and distribute labels on products purchased by consumers in the corresponding country
  • FLO-CERT GmbH is an independent International Certification Company that offers Fairtrade Certification services (of products only) to clients in more than 70 countries

IMO "Fair for Life"


  • In responding to the increasing demands of consumers, producers, processors, retailers and their global suppliers IMO (Institute for Marketecology, a long-standing third-party certifier), and the Swiss Bio-Foundation jointly created and implemented the "Social & FairTrade Certification Programme" in 2006 -- known as "Fair for Life"
  • "Fair for life" is a brand neutral third party certification program for social accountability and fair trade in agricultural, manufacturing and trading operations. The programme complements existing fair trade certification systems.
  • Learn more about IMO's Fair for Life program here!

Chris explains

With so many different kinds of certifications, labels, and associations, we as consumers can get quite confused as to how to make the most "ethical" purchasing choice!  What's the difference between buying a product certified by

FLO or by IMO and buying a product produced by an organization that is a member of FTF or WFTO?  Well, certification of any kind is only one small element of practicing fair trade.  The Trade for Development Centre - an excellent resource center devoted to promoting fair trade and educating consumers, supporters and the general public about the movement - has an extensive brochure that compares all the different labels and organizations out there.

We encourage supporters and consumers to learn to ask questions about how their coffee, chocolate, clothing, etc was sourced and from where and in that way, look beyond the label and "behind the scenes"(hence, the importance for transparency!) for the true and full picture!

Document Actions