Sustainable food | Fairtrade

“Fairtrade is a strategy for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Its purpose is to create opportunities for producers and workers who have been economically disadvantaged or marginalized by the conventional trading system. If fair access to markets under better trade conditions would help them to overcome barriers to development, they can join Fairtrade.”

Fairtrade Labelling was created in the Netherlands in the late 1980s. The Max Havelaar Foundation launched the first Fairtrade consumer guarantee label in 1988 on coffee sourced from Mexico. Here in the UK, the Fairtrade Foundation was established in 1992, with the first products to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark launched in 1994.

World market prices for products such as coffee, sugar and rice are highly volatile, often falling below the costs of production. Between 1970 and 2000, prices for some of the main agricultural exports of poorer countries fell by between 30 and 60 per cent. The reasons for this are complex, and related to unfair rules governing international trade, which oblige many poorer countries to open their own markets to imports while producing goods for export. According to Oxfam, this means that:

Poor farmers are faced with falling crop prices, a falling share of the retail price of produce they sell, competing goods from rich countries dumped on their markets at subsidised prices, and a lack of meaningful access to those countries’ markets for their own produce.

The consequences can be devastating for both small-scale producers and agricultural labourers. With few – if any – other employment opportunities open to them, and no welfare state to fall back on, many small farmers are unable to afford basic necessities such as food for their families, healthcare, and education for their children. Labourers on plantations fare little better, often facing low pay, no job security, unpleasant or downright dangerous living and working conditions, and serious health problems resulting from the use of hazardous pesticides. Many plantation workers have been prevented from joining trade unions by intimidation.

Buying Fairtrade products is about improving the well-being and livelihoods of agricultural producers and labourers in poorer countries, by improving trading relationships and so ensuring better working conditions, greater access to healthcare and a higher standard of living. Buying Fairtrade products is one way to help people out of the cycle of poverty and illness.

Fairtrade and sustainability

Fairtrade contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, marginalized producers and workers in developing countries. It guarantees local sustainability. Fair trade certified goods must adhere to sustainable agro-ecological practices, including reduction of chemical fertilizer use, prevention of erosion, and protection of forests. Coffee plantations are more likely to be fair trade certified if they use traditional farming practices with shading and without chemicals. This protects the biodiversity of the ecosystem and ensures that the land will be usable for farming in the future and not just for short-term planting. Commitment to sustainable practices is reflected in the prevalence of organic coffee in tandem with fair trade coffee for example. In the United States, 85% of fair trade certified coffee is also organic.

Farmers and workers are extremely motivated to improve the environmental impact of their production – after all it’s about the area in which they and their families live and work. But these issues often involve investing now for benefits that will only be realised over the longer-term and it’s unrealistic to expect farmers to do this when they are struggling to survive on a day-to-day basis.

10 good reasons to buy Fairtrade

  • It’s so easy – just look for the FAIRTRADE Mark on a range of foods.
  • It tackles poverty by opening up markets to marginalised producers.
  • The Fairtrade price covers the producers’ costs, with a premium to invest in their business and the community.
  • Workers and farmers decide democratically how to invest the Fairtrade premium.
  • It empowers producer and worker groups in the supply chain and increases their knowledge of international trade.
  • Fairtrade farmers are encouraged to protect their environment or go organic.
  • You can show you care about producers and not just about prices.
  • It challenges all companies to move away from unsustainably low commodity prices and unethical sourcing.
  • Fairtrade sends a loud message to governments that the public wants justice in all trade.
  • It’s trustworthy. Look for the FAIRTRADE Mark to guarantee that producers in developing countries are getting a better deal.

The good news?! DMU was awarded Fairtrade university in March 2010.

A Fairtrade University or College is one that has made a commitment to supporting and using Fairtrade products. A Fairtrade University ensures that Fairtrade products are available in as many places as possible and they raise awareness of Fairtrade and the benefits that it brings to producers in developing countries with students and staff.

Fairtrade foods are made available for sale in all campus shops. Fairtrade foods are used in all cafés/restaurants/bars on campus. Where this is not possible, there is a commitment to begin to use Fairtrade foods in these establishments as soon as it becomes possible to do so.

Fairtrade foods (for example, coffee and tea) are served at all meetings hosted by the university or college and the Student Union, and are served in all university or college and Student Union management offices.

Moreover, also Leicester has been appointed Fairtrade city.

What do you think? Share your views on the progress and future of fair trade below or on Twitter and Facebook.

More readings about fair trade:


  1. Sustain, Eat well and save the planet! A guide for consumers on how to eat greener, healthier and more ethical food


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