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What does fairtrade mean?

Gepubliceerd op 2 januari 2023 om 09:37

Fairtrade means fair trade or fair exchange. Fairtrade clothing, but mainly Fairtrade food, is produced fairly and responsibly. It is a term used for developing countries, where the makers of Fairtrade clothing receive a fair price for their work. When the cotton farmers and growers get a fair price, the whole society benefits. They can develop further and live less in poverty.


In the fight against underpayment of cotton farmers, there are various quality marks for textiles, one of which is the Fairtrade quality mark. Fairtrade is an international quality mark set up by the Dutch foundation Max Havelaar. The quality mark guarantees that the products comply with fair trade. Cotton farmers receive a fair wage and their rights and health are well taken care of. Sustainable garments can also have several quality marks, such as the Fairtrade label  together with the GOTS label (organic cotton). 75% of Fairtrade cotton is also certified organic.

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Fairtrade cotton

A lot is made of cotton, in addition to cotton clothing, you also have, for example, cotton towels and cotton bedding. Cotton is a favorite raw material for textiles. Conscious consumers can opt for Fairtrade certified cotton. Fairtrade is different from other quality marks, because buyers have to pay a minimum amount that covers the costs of sustainable production. Many cotton farmers still live in poverty and depend on middlemen in long and complex trade chains. Due to higher production costs, fluctuating world market prices and unstable weather conditions, cotton farmers face an uncertain future. Child labor is a much-discussed problem in the cotton industry, which mainly takes place during the harvest and in the factories where the clothing is made.

Benefits of Fairtrade organic cotton

Fairtrade is committed to cotton farmers. They grow and harvest the cotton plants and are therefore at the beginning of the trade chain. Fair trade cotton mainly comes from India and West Africa. There are more than 18 Fairtrade certified farmers' organizations and cooperatives, and they collectively represent more than 46,000 affiliated cotton farmers. Most Fairtrade cotton comes from India. Also from Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Fairtrade works with the farmers' organisations, never with the farmers themselves.


Organic cotton products are softer and safer for the skin, as the fibres are much longer, compared to regular cotton. Its benefits for the skin also make it a better choice for baby clothes due to its softness and the lack of harmful chemicals used in the manufacturing process

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Improved biodiversity

Fairtrade promotes the protection of the environment and biodiversity. More and more farmers are using rainwater, planting shade trees, switching to biogas and renewable energy sources and investing in organic fertilizers. In addition, the Fairtrade Climate Standard is the first of its kind to address imbalances in the carbon market and ensure a fair financial return for producers.

Equal rights for women

Equal rights for men and women is an important part of the Fairtrade principles. By prohibiting gender discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence, Fairtrade helps empower women. In addition, the Fairtrade premium is used for training in gender leadership and funding for women's initiatives. Fairtrade helps women, young people and migrants gain more confidence to participate in decision-making within cooperatives and plantations.

Fairtrade project in India

The communities of the Chetna cotton cooperative are greatly affected by climate change. They would like to improve the biodiversity in their villages to counteract this. Pollution of water streams and waste nuisance also burden the ecosystem even further and represent a major risk to health. Through various activities, the communities will make their villages cleaner and greener. A few examples are: improving water supplies, growing and planting trees, recycling and selling plastic, recycling plant waste into compost.

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Fairtrade clothing is much needed

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed. This was the worst disaster in the clothing industry ever and shocked the whole world. It employed about 5,000 people and the factories produced for Benetton, Bonmarché, Cato Fashions, the Children's Place, el Corte Ingles, Joe Fresh, Mango, Matalan, Primark and Walmart, among others. The building was poor and unsafe, with large cracks in the walls, but work had to be continued nonetheless. That day, the building collapsed. 1134 people were killed and more than 2000 people were (seriously) injured.


The fire and construction safety program, which the Schone Kleren Campagne has been peddling for years, is gaining momentum due to this disaster, but unfortunately there are still major problems in the textile sector. Both garment workers and cotton farmers work under harsh conditions. The Corona crisis clearly shows how unequal the balance of power is in this industry. Clothing brands canceled orders worth billions of euros due to Covid. Millions of workers were left without pay. Fairtrade cotton farmers are also noticing the consequences of this. Due to the decrease in orders and the closure of weaving mills, spinning mills and export ports, the cotton exporters face major sales challenges. Cancellation of contracts and price negotiations leave little room for cotton farmers to cover the costs of sustainable production. Fairtrade is committed to a global redesign in the textile industry.


For example, that companies should be legally obliged to take responsibility for their entire supply chain. Transparent and traceable measures. Unfair trade practices must stop by ensuring that brands and retailers are legally bound to honor contracts. Stricter environmental rules covering how textile products sold in the EU are designed and produced. Legal and financial responsibility of manufacturers for when their products become waste.

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Fair pay and a Fairtrade premium

On top of a Fairtrade Minimum Price for most products, the Fairtrade approach includes a Fairtrade Premium – an additional sum of money that farmers and workers invest in projects they choose.


Fairtrade helps farmers and workers in developing countries to gain a better place in the trade chain, so that they can live from their work and invest in a sustainable future. Fairtrade is both a hallmark and a global movement. Together we make the world fair, with equal opportunities for everyone. In Asia, Africa and South America, many small-scale farmers are constantly insecure about their income, for example the yield of a harvest may be too low to support the whole family. Without a reliable income, they cannot invest in their business, the future of their children and in the community. As a result, poverty persists. Fairtrade breaks this vicious circle by setting standards that give farmers the opportunity to develop themselves.


Fairtrade is the only quality mark worldwide that is 50% in the hands of farmers and employees themselves. In addition, they gain access to credit, insurance and other financial services. They decide for themselves how the Fairtrade premium is spent, and whether they want to improve productivity or tackle sustainability, for example.

Stronger together

The advantage of working together is that the organization gives the farmers a better negotiating position, they can no longer be played off against each other. Organizational formation also brings economies of scale. The farmers can jointly purchase agricultural resources, organize transport and arrange export and processing together. Cooperative members also receive training on, for example, increasing their production, improving quality and the environment. The farmers form the backbone of the countryside and can collectively influence the development of their region. Together you are stronger. In addition to small-scale farmers, plantations for a number of products are also eligible for certification: the Fairtrade standards are then aimed at a better life for employees. Plantation work is still often characterized by low wages and poor working conditions, while unions are kept at a distance. The most vulnerable are workers without a permanent contract: seasonal workers and other temporary workers.


An important first step is for small farmers to organize themselves. This gives farmers a better bargaining position, a better price for their harvest and access to the world market. Therefore, the main condition of Fairtrade is that farmers work together in cooperatives.

A guaranteed minimum price

Products from the farmers are bought from a cooperative. To improve the farmers' income security, Fairtrade sets a number of strict trading conditions. Buyers who purchase products from Fairtrade farmers' cooperatives are required to pay a minimum price. This minimum price should enable farmers to cover the costs of sustainable production. This trade condition is there to protect the farmers when the world market price falls. If the world market price is lower than the minimum price, at least the minimum price is paid. If the world market price is higher than the minimum price, the cooperatives naturally receive the higher world market price. It therefore acts as a safety net that offers security.

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Fairtrade premium

Cooperatives receive a Fairtrade premium from their buyers on top of the price they pay for the products. The farmers decide democratically what they spend this premium on. This often involves business development for farmers, such as improving productivity, quality and infrastructure. For plantation workers, the Fairtrade premium benefits community projects such as education and health care. The farmers and the cooperative itself must also meet requirements. Fairtrade stands for sustainable production and development. The basis for this is environmentally friendly cultivation, respect for labor rights and a transparent working method. 54% of the Fairtrade premium is used to strengthen the cooperative (administration and better facilities) and services to the farmers (loans and agricultural materials). 46% of the Fairtrade premium is used for community projects, mainly education projects. Invested more than 500 million euros through the Fairtrade premium in schools, health care and clean drinking water, among other things

What is Fairtrade clothing?

When you think of Fairtrade, you may initially think of food products, such as Fairtrade bananas or fairtrade chocolate. Fairtrade products come in many flavors and types from different brands in all price ranges. You can recognize the products by the well-known green-blue logo.

The same goes for Fairtrade clothing: you can recognize them by the Fairtrade logo on the washing label. Textile brands that work with the Fairtrade quality mark usually show this clearly on their website, because they are proud of it. It offers added value to the sustainable garment.


Whether a clothing brand also has its clothing made under fair working conditions is less easy to assess. 'Fair working conditions' is a broad concept, in the sense that the road in the clothing industry is long. After picking the cotton, Fairtrade does not look at the weaving of the fabric and the sewing of the clothing. And then there is the production of small parts, such as buttons and zippers. None of this falls under the Fairtrade label. Only the farmers who grow the cotton benefit from the fair trade label. The basis of your clothing.

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Yes, Fairtrade makes a difference!

Fairtrade works with more than 1.7 million farmers and workers, 1,600 producer organizations, more than 4,000 companies and countless trade unions, consumers and campaigners worldwide. More than 2,100 cities, schools, universities, governments and other organizations support the Fairtrade principles.

How Fairtrade started

There is no better medicine against poverty than the ability to provide for one's own income. Fairtrade Netherlands helps with this. The Max Havelaar Foundation was founded in 1988 by Frans van der Hoff and Nico Roozen in response to an urgent appeal from coffee farmers in Mexico. “Help is nice, but a fair price for our coffee is even better. Then we no longer have to hold out our hand,” they said. With a fair price for the coffee beans, small farmers can take matters into their own hands. The foundation was named after Max Havelaar, the protagonist of Multatuli's book of the same name. The book describes the social abuses in coffee cultivation and Max Havelaar who stands up for the local population. On November 15, 1988, the first pack of coffee with the Max Havelaar Fairtrade label was presented to Prince Claus, fair trade coffee from Mexican farmers. This coffee became a great success. In 1993, in addition to coffee, Fairtrade certified cocoa also entered the Dutch market. This was followed by products from developing countries around the world. Nowadays there is also Fairtrade bananas, cotton, tea, sugar, orange juice, flowers and even Fairtrade certified gold.

Fairtrade the Netherlands

Today, the Fairtrade label is represented in 30 countries, 1.7 million farmers are members of Fairtrade farmers' organizations and 30,000 products with the Fairtrade label are sold worldwide. Together with your help, Fairtrade always takes a step towards a better life for a growing group of farmers and workers in developing countries. Fairtrade Netherlands is located in Utrecht. They are responsible for putting the Fairtrade quality mark on the map, expanding it and checking it in the Netherlands. Together they try to make both companies and consumers in the Netherlands aware of the importance of fair trade and to convince them that they can easily make their contribution through Fairtrade

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Human rights are important

Human rights are central to Fairtrade's mission. Human rights apply to everyone, wherever you come from or whoever you are. There are dozens of human rights. These include the right to life, shelter, no discrimination, freedom of expression, clean drinking water, health and a reasonable standard of living. Labor rights are also human rights, for example the right to a living wage or living income.


Human rights seem obvious, but the harsh reality is that they still do not apply to many people. In 2015, 736 million people lived below the international poverty line of $1.90 a day. More than 820 million people go hungry every day. And in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone, 2.1 million children work in child labour.


Businesses can have a positive as well as a negative impact on human rights. One of the main causes of human rights violations, such as child labor or slavery, is poverty. As long as farmers and workers are exploited and unable to earn a living income, these rights will always be under pressure. That is why Fairtrade stands for fair trade, where human rights are respected and exploitation is prevented.


Farmers and workers must be involved in policy and be provided with a living wage. This is checked (independently), so cheating is not possible. The positive news is that more and more companies are participating in this, and there are also more governments that encourage this (read: oblige companies). Fairtrade works with thousands of companies worldwide to improve human rights compliance for and with farmers and workers. Together we make the world fair, with equal opportunities for everyone.

Living income

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Picture: Fairtrade

The main goal of Fairtrade is: to make a living income possible for farmers. A living income means that there is enough income to buy food and clothes, send children to school, medical care, a roof over your head, plus a little extra for emergencies and to save after the agricultural costs are fully covered . Fairtrade is committed to a living income for farmers and workers. Fairtrade works with minimum prices per product type to offer farmers more certainty. In addition, Fairtrade is the only quality mark with a fixed, non-negotiable premium. Through the Fairtrade minimum price and premium, they work towards a better income for farmers. Because farmers often have limited insight into their costs, investments and profitability of their company, Fairtrade helps them with this.


A living income is extremely important, not only for farmers but also for the consequences of poverty. Farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America receive too little money for their products. They often work under poor conditions and due to the unfair trading system, many farmers live in extreme poverty. Without a stable income, farmers cannot invest in their business, the future of their children and in the community. This perpetuates poverty. And the fact is that poverty is the root cause of child labour, deforestation, environmental pollution and other human rights violations. Without paying a higher price to the farmers, it is not possible for them to get out of this poverty.

What is child labour?

One of the main causes of human rights violations, including child labour, is the structurally low prices paid for raw materials. Fairtrade combats child labor through the Fairtrade minimum prices and premiums. Child labor is also being tackled, for example cooperatives are supported in developing their own approach to prevent and combat child labour. Fairtrade cooperatives and plantations must adhere to Fairtrade standards on child labour. This means that children under the age of 15 are not allowed to work. Children over the age of 15 are allowed to do work appropriate to their age, but only if it is done in safe conditions and does not jeopardize their education or development.

Working is not always child labour. Children are allowed to help their parents after school or during the holidays. Fairtrade has defined a number of strict conditions. Work is only allowed after school hours or during holidays, with adjusted working hours that are appropriate to the age of the children. The children must not perform dangerous work and the work must be supervised by a family member or guardian The farmers' organizations and plantations that have joined Fairtrade are audited annually by independent inspectors. these can be announced or unannounced inspections. If child labor is found, immediate action is taken. The child is taken out of work and it is ensured that he or she can go back to school. Furthermore, the cooperative is supported in finding a structural solution, so that the child in question does not go to work elsewhere and the work is not taken over by another child.


To prevent child labour, it is important that cooperatives and their members go beyond controls. The cooperatives investigate where the risk of child labor is greatest in their communities and work to eliminate these risks. The cooperatives set up child labor committees in which young people are also members. These committees work to raise awareness of child labor in their communities and know what to do if child labor is found. They also develop activities together with the community to prevent child labour.

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Such systems are currently being set up in cooperatives in Belize, Paraguay, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, India, Madagascar, Swaziland and the Dominican Republic. Awareness about child labor and children's rights is very high in these cooperatives. They take the lead in preventing and eliminating child labour, such as building a school. Farmer cooperatives invest their Fairtrade premium in building a school. A good school closer to home ensures that more children go to school and therefore fewer are at work.

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Choosing Fairtrade textiles makes a difference. picture:

What does climate change mean for cotton farmers?

The climate is changing. The temperature on Earth is rising. The livelihoods of millions of small-scale farmers and workers are being affected in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Fertile land is lost and the higher temperature increases the spread of crop diseases. On top of that, these communities are also confronted with rising debts due to COVID-19. These debts, in addition to the loss and damage from climate change, and the low incomes and wages, mean that these farmers are unable to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Let alone investing in clean, green energy and sustainable agricultural methods. While this is actually very much needed to protect the (cooling) forests and restore biodiversity. A difficult situation for the farmers.


Fairtrade has developed a climate strategy. Fairtrade's approach focuses mainly on supporting small farmers, with projects such as water consumption, energy consumption and pesticide use, against climate change. Fairtrade International has developed the Fairtrade Climate Standard. These projects enable the farmer to adapt to climate change, while at the same time making their contribution to limiting CO2 emissions.

Fairtrade mark

With a quality mark, a clothing brand can guarantee a certain quality of that garment. with the Fairtrade quality mark, cotton farmers not only received a fair price for their cotton, you also know with Fairtrade that wages are fair and no exploitation (and child labor) has taken place. The local population gets a real chance for a better life. Fairtrade is the international quality mark of the Dutch Max  Havelaar quality mark. They are a non-profit organization and independent. Fairtrade focuses on small farmers and workers in developing countries. Fairtrade itself does not buy and sell products.


Do you pay attention to the Fairtrade quality mark when you go shopping, buy new bedding or clothing? And are you willing to pay a little more for this? Let us know in the comments.


Lots of love,


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