Mexico CIRSA. Photo Courtesy: Equal Exchange.

As a vegan food justice organization, Food Empowerment Project strives to do its best to provide consumers with enough information to make easy and informed decisions. We know that you probably clicked on this link in order to have a better understanding of Fair Trade.

Unfortunately, this is a fairly complicated issue and one that continues to change.

Our organization does indeed place a firm emphasis on the importance of accurate labeling of products, as we know firsthand the sheer magnitude of the impacts our deliberate and intentional consumerism can have—which of course, can only take place with precise, holistic information.

The Fair Trade system is one of the largest and most diverse global movements in the world. In September 2011, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) announced its resignation from the international Fair Trade system.

Upon deciding to pursue a different trajectory, Fairtrade International stated that “cooperation represents a severe credibility risk to the International Fairtade system.”  Detailed information regarding FTUSA’s intentions and operations are limited.

(For a basic overview on the “split” Fair Trade has undergone, please read more from Equal Exchange.)

As we learn more, we have become concerned about the accuracy of labels that come from Western entities and are placed on commodities produced in the Global South.

Due to the absence of truly being able to verify this information in the realm of Fair Trade, navigating this terrain with confidence becomes slightly more difficult. Unfortunately, we cannot provide a statement that we fully trust Fair Trade.

If you are interested in finding a list of chocolate and coffee companies that we recommend (the chocolate list is made up of companies that do not source in areas where child and forced labor are the most prevalent), please see our chocolate list and article on coffee.

We look forward to being able to provide you with conclusive, definitive recommendations on Fair Trade; until then, we will continue to search for the most reliable and consistent conduits through which to support authentic fair conditions for small-scale farmers and small, farmer-owned cooperatives.

July 2014