From the seed that is planted by some blistered hands to the product that is displayed on a shop shelf, there is a long way of hard work, profits and losses. Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is aimed at improving farmers’ lives. It targets small communities, gives shoppers the opportunity to reduce poverty through a simple purchase. Although the initiative was more than laudable, something else was needed to make the small community shops more connected and responding to the demands of the supermarket chains that owned the majority of consumers.

The solution was found in 1988, when the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, was launched under the initiative of Nico Roozen, Frans van der Hoff and Dutch ecumenical development agency Solidaridad. The independent certification allowed the goods to reach the supermarkets. Fairtrade labelling allowed consumers and distributors alike to track the origin of the goods and make sure they benefited the farmers at the end of the chain. Label printers make it possible for other business to use the label, but its use on packaging requires prior license agreement.

In 1997, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was created, with the goal of inspecting that the standards were met across all countries that had adopted the system.

In 2002 FLO launched a new International Fairtrade Certification Mark aiming at increased shelf visibility and easier cross border processes.

At present, there are Fairtrade Certification Marks on many products, the most popular being coffee, tea, bananas, mangoes, cotton, etc.  There are an estimated 14 million people in the developing world that depend on cocoa production. 90% of cocoa is grown and harvested on small family farms of 5 hectares or less, while only 5% comes from larger plantations. Coffee, so much in demand, and so much a product we are used to, requires a lot of hard work. It takes four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit.

The reputation of fair trade has soured over the past few years and more and more young people and children are educated in this direction.

Fairtrade is an example to understand the value of a label. It can enrich a life, financially speaking, it can save one, in the case of food labels, it can help shape the prestige of a brand.

Maybe not that poetic, it is industrial labelling that helps a message – information or brand, get conveyed.

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