“What actually is Fairtrade?”

It is the start of Fairtrade Fortnight today and this year’s theme is ‘Take a Break for Farmers.’ To find out more about this year’s fortnight please visit the Fairtrade Foundation’s website.

To kick things off at Kent we thought we would answer the question that we hear a lot from students:

“What actually is Fairtrade?”

The Fairtrade Mark

 “When you buy products with the FAIRTRADE Mark, you support farmers and workers as they work to improve their lives and their communities.

The Mark means that the Fairtrade ingredients in the product have been produced by small-scale farmer organisations or plantations that meet Fairtrade social, economic and environmental standards.

The standards include protection of workers’ rights and the environment, payment of the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects.” The Fairtrade Foundation

Most people are used to seeing these marks on some common food items such as: tea, coffee, sugar and of course chocolate and bananas. It does not end there though, cotton, beauty products, flowers and gold are all available as Fairtrade options.

The Fairtrade Premium

Fairtrade goods you buy will usually cost a little more than you are used to when buying non-fairtade alternatives. This is because an additional sum of money is added – the fairtrade premium. This premium goes directly to the workers and farmers for them to use to improve social, economic and environmental conditions.

Now, not everyone can afford to swap to every available fairtrade product so where you can, make one or two swaps and see where your money goes…


Fair Trade

There is of course fair trade outside of the Fairtrade branded mark. Traidcraft provide this simple explanation here:

The definition is not so different but there are differences in trade that is defined as fair and those who are under the Fairtrade Mark.


The Fairtrade label has been criticized and that by buying into free market forces it is inherently unfair. By sticking with the same market system it cannot help every farmer and therefore some will remain in severe poverty, especially those who cannot afford to pay the labeling schemes fee.

As a Fairtrade University we are encouraged to stock an increasing range of Fairtrade labelled products which we do and which sell well. However, is this to the detriment of other stock items such as more sustainable local produce or other labelled scheme items such as Rainforest Alliance?

Wherever you sit on this issue it is clear that there is not a one label fits all approach to ensuring producers of our favourite food, drink and other items get a fair price for the work.

If you have any thoughts please comment below or alternatively, submit your own blog to be published here by following the instructions on the Write For Us page.