Fair trade is an alternative way of doing business based on some fundamental criteria such as:
- guarantee the rights of workers;
- pay a fair price and a fair profit;
- respect the environment at all stages of the supply chain;
- guarantee continuous commercial relationship;
- help the producers become independent and autonomous in trading.
In some ways, the origin of Fair Trade can be found since 1827 when some abolitionist members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Pennsylvania organized a moral and economic boycott of slave-derived goods and founded the "Free Produce Society". This new society aimed to fight against slavery with a new tactic – one that emphasized the value of the honest labor of free men and women, and to try to determine the unseen added costs of goods such as cotton and sugar, which came from the toil of slaves. Many additional supporters from other states joined the ‘Free Produce Society’, but the movement didn’t grow enough to gain benefits from the market and was dismantled in 1847.
In 1897 The Salvation Army launched the Hamodava Tea Company. Hamodava pioneered a fair trade model that sought to pay fair prices to tea farmers, while also offering a scheme by which they could purchase plantation land on a co-operative, giving them financial independence.
Fair Trade movement began to be known after World War II, and started officially in the United States, where Ten Thousand Villages (formerly Self Help Crafts) began buying needlework from Puerto Rico in 1946, and SERRV International (American 501(c)(3) no profit alternative trading organization) began to trade with poor communities in the South in the late 1940s. The first formal “Fair Trade” shop which sold these and other items opened in 1958 in the USA. The earliest traces of Fair Trade in Europe date from the late 1950s when Oxfam UK started to sell crafts made by Chinese refugees in Oxfam shops. In 1964, it created the first Fair Trade Organisation. Parallel initiatives were taking place in the Netherlands and in 1967 the importing organisation, Fair Trade Original, was established. In 1965 Oxfam launched "Helping-by-Selling" campaign. At the same time, Dutch organisations began to sell cane sugar with the message “by buying cane sugar you give people in poor countries a place in the sun of prosperity”. These groups went on to sell handcrafts from the South, and in 1969 the first “Third World Shop” opened.
During the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1968 in Delhi, the claim Trade Not Aid become the principle to develop economic relationship with producers from the south of the world in order to guarantee them the right prices for their products and encourage the development of their own production, seeking awareness and social rights.
In the early days of fair trading, Fair Trade Organisations traded mostly with handcrafts producers, mainly because of their contact with missionaries. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, important segments of the fair trade movement worked to find markets for products from countries that were excluded from the mainstream trading channels for political reasons. Thousands of volunteers sold coffee from Angola and Nicaragua in World Shops, in the back of churches, from their homes and from stands in public places, using the products as a vehicle to deliver their message: give disadvantaged producers in developing countries a fair chance on the world's market, and you support their self-determined sustainable development. 2 At the 70’s Fair Trade organizations began the import of food products, opening new market and increasing their sales with new assortments in the shops.
The Fair Trade movement came to being to raise awareness on trade injustices and imbalances of power in the conventional trade structures, and to advocate changes in policies to favour equitable trade. Sale points of Fair Trade products became one of the effective methods of campaigning. It was the Fair Trade shops that started including producer stories in product packaging to raise awareness on Fair Trade. World/Fair Trade Shops mobilised consumers to participate in campaigning activities for greater global justice. For 60 years, the Fair Trade movement has developed and has increased the type of products that are sold in the World Shops; it has even specialized in certifications that are specific for fair trade products. Moreover, there are international umbrella organizations that coordinate the networking between Fair Trade enterprises, mainly through campaigning and annual conferences (https://wfto.com/about-us/history-wfto/history-fair-trade )