History of Fairtrade

Below is a brief chronology of Fairtrade and Fairtrade International, showing the key dates.


Launch of the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, under the initiative of the Dutch development agency Solidaridad. The first Fairtrade coffee from Mexico was sold into Dutch supermarkets. It was branded Max Havelaar, after a fictional Dutch character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies.

Late '80s/early '90s

The Max Havelaar initiative is replicated in several other markets across Europe and North America: Max Havelaar (in Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and France), Transfair (in Germany, Austria, Luxemburg, Italy, the United States, Canada and Japan), Fairtrade Mark in the UK and Ireland, Rättvisemärkt in Sweden, and Reilu Kauppa in Finland.


Fairtrade International (formally known as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International or FLO) was established in Bonn, Germany to unite the national Fairtrade organizations under one umbrella and harmonize worldwide standards and certification.


Fairtrade International launches the international FAIRTRADE Certification Mark. The goals of the launch were to improve the visibility of the Mark on supermarket shelves, facilitate cross border trade and simplify export procedures for both producers and exporters.

Producer representatives join the Fairtrade International Board of Directors.


Fairtrade International splits into two independent organizations: FLO, which sets Fairtrade standards and provides producer support, and FLO-CERT, which inspects and certifies producer organizations and audits traders.


Fairtrade International is recognised by ISEAL as one of seven organizations that have reached the highest standards for defining ethical trade.

Producers become full members in Fairtrade International’s governance.


New Fairtrade organizations: Fairtrade Label South Africa and Czech Fair Trade Association.


Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International decides to go by the abbreviated name 'Fairtrade International'. It reflects the Fairtrade vision to simplify the system and extend its benefits to a greater number of farmers and workers, traders and consumers.

New Fairtrade organization: Fairtrade Korea


New Fairtrade organization: Fairtrade Hong Kong Foundation.


A change in Fairtrade International’s constitution gives farmers and workers an equal say in running the global Fairtrade movement. From now on the producer networks have half the votes at Fairtrade International’s General Assembly.

New Fairtrade organizations: Fairtrade Eastern Africa and Fairtrade India. Portugal is added to the mandate of Fairtrade Spain and they are renamed Fairtrade Ibérica


Marike de Peña is the first producer to be elected Chair of the Fairtrade International Board.
Fairtrade International begins the transition of the provision of producer services to the producer networks. Fairtrade Africa is the first to take on this responsibility, giving farmers and workers a greater say in the type of services and support they need.

Fairtrade International rolls out the Fairtrade Sourcing Programs for cocoa, sugar and cotton – the first major change to Fairtrade labelling in its history. Rather than focusing on all the ingredients for one final product, companies participating in the Fairtrade Sourcing Programs can make big commitments to sourcing one or more specific commodities for use across ranges, or even their whole business.

New Fairtrade organizations: Slovakia is added to the mandate of Fairtrade Czech Republic and they are renamed Fairtrade Czech Republic and Slovakia.


New Fairtrade organizations: Fairtrade Brazil, Fairtrade Taiwan and Fairtrade Philippines.

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