World Fair Trade Organization

I don’t know about you but when I start to do research on well, anything… if I see too many acronyms that I know I’m going to have to look up I get pretty overwhelmed. That was definitely the case when I went looking for information on the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). There were so many acronyms that I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t get this post out by the deadline. However, I persevered and in the process learned a lot about the history of Fair Trade and WFTO (I also figured out that I will not run out of topics to write about any time soon).

So let’s jump in:

The World Fair Trade Organization is largest global network of Fair Trade organizations in the world, operating in over 70 countries. Membership in the WFTO network provides Fair Trade organizations credibility, connections to like-minded people, tools to increase market access, and a common voice that speaks out for trade justice. Members of the network include producers, marketers, exporters, importers, wholesalers, and retailers who demonstrate 100% commitment to Fair Trade.

Members of the WFTO network are required to uphold the 10 WFTO principles of Fair Trade which are:

Members of the WFTO network are required to uphold the 10 WFTO principles of Fair Trade which are:

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The aim of the WTFO is to improve the lives of marginalized producers and workers through Fair Trade. Their Fair Trade Standard requires, among other things listed above, that workers are paid a living wage, meaning a wage that can support a family including: food, shelter, clothes, education, healthcare, transportation, and other essentials. Through the payment of a living wage, and the other requirements of Fair Trade, it is anticipated that workers will have the ability to improve their livelihoods and communities in a sustainable way.

Let’s dig into a bit of history:

Before 2008, WFTO was the International Federation of Alternative Trade (IFAT). IFAT was officially formed in 1989 but many organizations, that would now be considered Fair Trade, had been informally participating in meetings and conferences since the 1970’s (side note: since the 1940’s fair trade or “alternative trade” was done on a small scale in “world stores” or what might today be called import stores in the US and Europe). The aim of IFAT, as established in 1993, was to improve living conditions for the poor through promoting fair trade as well as to gain the trust and cooperation of international organizations. IFAT steadily gained international support over the years along with other organizations with similar intentions.

In 2000, FLO (Fairtrade Labeling International, now Fairtrade International), IFAT, NEWS (Network of European World Shops), and EFTA (European Fair Trade Association) formed FINE in order to work together on common issues and in particular to develop a monitoring system for Fair Trade organizations and supply chains.

In 2013 members of WFTO (name changed from IFAT to WFTO in 2008) approved the new Guarantee System (GS). The GS is an innovative system that can be used to verify Fair Trade compliance of any type of trading organizations.  At the heart of GS is the WFTO Fair Trade Standard. The WFTO Fair Trade Standard incorporates criteria based on both the 10 Fair Trade Principles (above) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions. Compliance with the standard is assessed using: a self-assessment report, a peer visit, and a monitoring audit. Members are expected to apply the standard diligently and transparently and be constantly refining their Fair Trade practices with measurable advances in the way that their organization operates. Members that successfully complete the GS process become Guarantee Members and are able to use the WFTO product label on their products. The label is an assurance to buyers and consumers that the Guaranteed Member has complied with the WFTO Fair Trade Standard.

These stringent WFTO guidelines assure that organizations are not taking advantage of or exploiting their workers, while also assuring that those workers and their families have the means to live comfortable lives. On the other end of the production line (consuming) the unique and eye catching WFTO labels on Fair Trade items produced by these workers, alert consumers to the ethicality and sustainability of the products and assures that their money is well spent.

With the help of WFTO, Fair Trade is becoming more and more successful. This is important because shopping Fair Trade is a tangible contribution (which we can all make) to the fight against poverty, climate change, and global economic crises.    

I will certainly be on the lookout for WFTO products because, big or small, this is a contribution that we can all make. WFTO coffee? WFTO chocolate? WFTO pajamas? Yes, please. Those are all things that I need right now.