Fair Trade is widely viewed as the most effective attempt to promote the ideals of ethical consumption to a mainstream audience.
The launch of the first Fair Trade label came in 1988 with the Dutch Max Havelaar initiative.
Based in Bonn, Germany, Fairtrade International is the strategic organisation uniting more than 20 labelling initiatives across the world, including the UK's Fairtrade Foundation
Globally, the six biggest Fairtrade products are bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, sugar and tea, though many other products are also widely available.
Each national labelling initiative has its own particular governance structure, and in the case of the Fairtrade Foundation this consists of a Secretariat running day-to-day operations in addition to a Board and also a Certification Committee.
Fairtrade International, meanwhile, which steers the movement's global strategy, is governed by an annual General Assembly responsible for electing the eleven-member Board of Directors.
Regarding funding, more than half of Fairtrade International’s 2013-14 income was derived from membership fees, and just over a third from grants.
The UK is the world's biggest Fairtrade market with over €2 billion in sales in 2013, accounting for more than 30% of total global sales (€5.5 billion).
There are now more than 30,000 Fairtrade products available. Fairtrade goods are produced in 74 countries and available to buy in more than 125. T
here are more than 1.4 million farmers and workers affiliated with some 1,200 certified producer organisations across the world, of which about half are in Latin America and the Caribbean, a third in Africa, with the remaining in Asia.
Fairtrade standards are split into four categories:
1) Standards for small producer organisations
2) Standards for hired labour
3) Standards for contract production
4) Trade standards.
Much debate surrounds the effectiveness and viability of Fair Trade. In general, NGOs and international organisations are willing to promote Fair Trade because of its advantages – the premium, minimum price, pre-financing and emphasis on democratic cooperatives.
However, a number of academics have criticised Fair Trade. Two main critiques are made:
a) because less than 50% of certified coffee is actually sold at the Fair Trade price, farmers may opt to sell their worst quality coffee at the Fair Trade minimum price, only to trade their best quality coffee on the 'open' market.
b) the 'poorest of the poor' – migrant workers – are not protected because they do not have land and hence are not able to join a cooperative.
Others criticise Fair Trade for merely tinkering with the existing capitalist hegemony, emphasising individualistic consumer sovereignty above all else, and failing to offer a high enough minimum price for struggling farmers.
Fairtrade is a consumer-facing organisation with a widely recognised label placed on certified products.
While consumers use the label to find products with Fair Trade ingredients, at the production site only democratically run cooperatives made up of smallholder farmers without full-time employees of their own can join.
Reports from audits are not publicly available, however detailed descriptions of cooperatives are available.