FAQ on the Fairtrade Sourcing Progams

Find the answers you need about our new Fairtrade Sourcing Programs. If you still have questions, get in touch with us through our Contacts Page.

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What are the new Fairtrade Sourcing Programs?

Fairtrade Sourcing Programs are a new way for cocoa, sugar and cotton farmers to sell more of their crops on Fairtrade terms, meaning more benefits for them and their communities.

Through the Programs, farmers can sell their crops to the growing number of companies that are committed to sourcing a key commodity fairly and sustainably, to use across product ranges or even their whole business. It’s one more way for businesses to work with Fairtrade, alongside certifying and labelling products with the FAIRTRADE Mark.

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Why are you introducing Fairtrade Sourcing Programs?

Quite simply: to give farmers more ways to sell their crops as Fairtrade.

While we’re proud of everything our farmers have achieved through Fairtrade, there is still a lot to do. Our farmers are telling us they want to sell more products on Fairtrade terms. And there’s still many more we haven’t reached. Just 1.2% of the world’s cocoa is sold on Fairtrade terms. In sugar and cotton it’s even less.

At the same time, the potential for growth is huge. Global brands have committed to purchasing a total of about two million tonnes of sustainable cotton over the next two years alone. Other big companies have made similar commitments for cocoa and sugar.

These businesses need the right partners to make sure they can fulfil these commitments. That’s where we come in. Through Fairtrade Sourcing Programs, Fairtrade farmers can tap into this massive potential. It’s a great way to increase the positive impact of Fairtrade.

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How is it different to Fairtrade up to now?

Up to now we’ve focused on certifying and labelling products with the FAIRTRADE Mark. To carry the Mark, 100% of a product must be Fairtrade (for products like coffee, bananas or wine) or, for a product with multiple ingredients like ice cream, jams or chocolate, all available ingredients must be Fairtrade certified. 

Under Fairtrade Sourcing Programs, businesses commit to purchasing cocoa, sugar or for use across product ranges, or their whole business, rather than certifying and labelling end products. So they could for example buy Fairtrade cocoa for their chocolate bars, and their cakes and biscuits too. Farmers will receive all the same Fairtrade benefits.

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Do the same Fairtrade standards, prices and premiums apply?

Absolutely. We’re not changing the high standards you know and expect from Fairtrade. Farmers will receive the same Fairtrade benefits, including the Fairtrade Minimum Price (where relevant) and Fairtrade Premium.

We’re simply offering a second way for businesses wanting Fairtrade sugar, cocoa or cotton to purchase it, thereby increasing the opportunities for producers to sell on Fairtrade terms.

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Why have you developed a new label for Fairtrade Sourcing Programs?

The new Sourcing Programs have the same high standards of Fairtrade as the existing system, but do represent a different approach. While some companies may prefer to communicate their sourcing commitments through websites or reports, many also want to tell their customers about it on the packaging. Companies wishing to publicly communicate their commitment under the Fairtrade Sourcing Programs can make use of a new mark which makes clearly shows what commodity they have purchased on Fairtrade terms.

While they look different, both the FAIRTRADE Mark and the new FAIRTRADE Program Mark communicate what it means to buy Fairtrade - that your purchase is making a positive difference for small-scale farmers and workers.

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When can a company use the FAIRTRADE Program Mark on a product?

  • For cocoa and sugar: companies will only be able to use the FAIRTRADE Program Mark on-pack if the full amount of cocoa or sugar needed for that product is bought on Fairtrade terms.
  • For cotton: companies can use the new FAIRTRADE Program Mark once they’ve met an agreed volume of Fairtrade cotton. Companies can use the Program Mark on a swing-tag attached to items they have sourced the same amount of Fairtrade cotton as needed for that product range or collection.

Companies can also communicate about their commitment to the Fairtrade Sourcing Program in their corporate reports or website. We provide them with guidelines on how to do this. Some businesses may decide to only communicate off-pack, and not to label any products.

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What does this mean for farmers and workers?

Many farmers have been asking us to find more ways for them to sell more of their Fairtrade cocoa, sugar and cotton. That’s also not to mention the millions of farmers who Fairtrade hasn’t yet reached. Fairtrade Sourcing Programs will provide small-scale farmers new opportunities for selling their cocoa, sugar and cotton on Fairtrade terms.

We’re not changing the high standards you know and expect from Fairtrade. Farmers will receive the same Fairtrade benefits, including the Fairtrade Minimum Price (where relevant) and Fairtrade Premium, just more of them because of more opportunities to sell on Fairtrade terms.

Over time, as more companies sign up to Fairtrade Sourcing Programs, we’ll be able to set up more support programs for Fairtrade cocoa, sugar and cotton farmers, tailored to their situation and needs. This could include programs to modernize their farms, strengthen their organizations, or to improve the quality of their crops.

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What is the difference between the FAIRTRADE Certified Cotton Mark and the Fairtrade Cotton Program?

Cotton goes through lots of manufacturing stages before it’s turned into a finished t-shirt, dress or towel. For an item to bear the FAIRTRADE Cotton Mark, that cotton is tracked all the way from farm to shop shelf: that makes it fully traceable, but it means a long and complex process. Companies can’t always separate out the Fairtrade cotton in their factories and production process, so the number of businesses working with Fairtrade cotton has been limited.

The Fairtrade Cotton Program removes that barrier. Companies can buy and use Fairtrade cotton in bulk, mixing it with other cotton and fibres as needed. That way they can really increase the amount of Fairtrade cotton they buy, to 10, 20 or even 40% or more of their business, meaning more Fairtrade sales and benefits for cotton farmers.

Brands can communicate their overall sourcing achievements under the Fairtrade Cotton Program once they’ve met an agreed volume of Fairtrade cotton. They can add swing-tags to certain ranges of clothes, explaining their commitment to the Fairtrade Cotton Program. But they can only do so if they have bought the equivalent amount of Fairtrade cotton needed for that specific range.

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Where can I find products with the new FAIRTRADE Program Mark?

We’re only just introducing Fairtrade Sourcing Programs in early 2014, so it may take a while before you see any products on shelf. Also, remember, some companies won’t communicate their commitment on pack at all – and will only communicate it in their corporate reports or website.

We’ll be making announcements on our website as more companies sign up: keep your eyes peeled!

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I have more questions. Who can I speak to?

We’d be happy to explain Fairtrade Sourcing Programs in more detail and answer your questions. Please get in touch with us through our contact page.

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