Davos 2023: No Change Without A Systemic Economic Change

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting (WEF) 2023 is set to begin this week from the 16th to the 20th of January in the alpine town of Davos, Switzerland. Representatives from governments, (mainly big) business CEOs, youth leaders and civil society will gather at this international summit to showcase innovative ideas and share perspectives on tackling global challenges. Annually, Davos offers a round table where the public and private sectors can address pressing issues and provide solutions through cooperation.

The resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine are only two of the main factors that unleashed the instability and fragile international framework that tie into the theme of the 2023 edition, “Cooperation in a fragmented world”. However, the cost-of-living crisis topped the list of concerns among the 1200 experts surveyed. The results shown in the WEF report seem to indicate that world leaders might be more concerned about resolving short-term, more immediate problems rather than focusing on the long-term challenges represented by climate change (which however scores 4 out of the 10 long-term global risks).  The current challenge for Davos 2023 is that collective action and cooperation to address the climate crisis might be thwarted by discussions about rising energy & food prices and the supply crunch that has hit many.

This year’s annual meeting will take place during a long-standing period of economic fragmentation. In the last few years, globalization has endured a slowdown. Starting with Brexit, followed by the lockdowns during the pandemic, and the several political upheavals happening worldwide, altogether these events have slowly altered global supply chains. Leading economies have reshaped (and in some cases hampered) commercial routes, therefore leading towards a fragmented economic landscape. This sociopolitical horizon opens the future towards two possible pathways/scenarios: reinforcing business as usual or initiating a global economic change. 

“We see the manifold political, economic and social forces creating increased fragmentation on a global and national level. To address the root causes of this erosion of trust, we need to reinforce cooperation between the government and business sectors, creating the conditions for a strong and durable recovery.” Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum said. “At the same time, there must be the recognition that economic development needs to be made more resilient, more sustainable and nobody should be left behind”.

As the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), we agree on the need for a more sustainable and inclusive economic development, and we reject a “recovery” that persists in securing the interests and power of big enterprises. Now more than ever, we reiterate the need for a fundamental change of the current economic system towards a new one that puts people and the planet before profit. In the last few decades, neo-liberal globalization has dismantled most state policies regulating global trade. As a result, free trade policies have been deepening global wealth disparities and environmental degradation. In a deregulated market, small-scale producers are struggling to compete against industrial multinationals, and profits are maximized regardless of their socio-environmental impacts.

An economic development that aims not to put profit above the planet and people should focus on replacing unsustainable business practices by welcoming the growth of mission-led small enterprises that have long been providing diverse future-proof business models and solutions. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) represent 90% of all businesses worldwide and 50% of global employment (WorldBank), yet they often don’t have access to adequate funding, resources and ultimately policies to upscale their impact. Governments could play a pivotal role in regulating the market to catalyse what is now the niche Fair Trade market. Policymakers should enforce regulations that make socio-environmental responsibility, not the exception, but rather the standard conduct of any business that populates our economic landscape. 

Davos has the potential to offer the very needed discussion table to address how global economies can be developed in a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive manner. Yet, mainly big businesses and government leaders will be present, leaving little to no room for MSMEs to make their voices heard on how to truly achieve systemic change and go back to the root causes of our broken economy. Mission-led Fair Trade Enterprises are relentlessly working to bring systemic solutions to this broken economic system that has been disproportionately and greedily relying on the planet’s resources while capitalising over marginalised producers. They are proving that solutions are already there to grab; that joint efforts (of civil society, policymakers and the private sector) can lead towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 UN Agenda.

As WFTO, we aim to facilitate their crucial role and presence in the current economic landscape, by ensuring that their small-scale solutions are showcased globally, from Global North to Global South. We believe that their growth keeps setting a powerful example to world leaders, proving with their social and environmental mission that businesses made for people and the planet, and not against them, are already functioning and are economically resilient.

Therefore, in the next few days, we will be following the discussions at Davos 2023, while urging governments to stand up, take back the lead in regulating the market and start rewarding those mission-led enterprises that put people and the planet before profit. Together with the whole global community of Fair Trade Enterprises, WFTO calls for policymakers’ swift action to facilitate systemic change and for social, environmental and climate justice to all.

Written by Lucia Gilmozzi & Shun Hei (Nathan) Lee

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17th international


17-20 SEPT 2024 – CAPE TOWN 

We are thrilled to invite you to our upcoming International Fair Trade Summit, set to take place in the vibrant city of Cape Town, from the 17th to the 20th of September 2024.

The International Fair Trade Summit aims to bring together leaders, practitioners, and advocates from all corners of the globe to collaborate and promote Fair Trade practices. This edition promises to be a unique opportunity for participants to engage in enlightening discussions, exchange ideas, and forge partnerships that will shape the future of Fair Trade.

WFTO Membership & Associate Types

  • Fair Trade Organisations (FTO)

    All trading members of WFTO. This includes all organisations that have more than half of their income and/or more than €100,000 in income from trade.

  • Fair Trade Support Organisations (FTSO)

    An organisation whose primary mission is to support Fair Trade and/or provide services to organisations that are or want to become Fair Trade Organisations.

  • Fair Trade Networks (FTN)

    An organisation which is an association of organisations committed to Fair Trade.

  • Individual Associates (IA)

    Individual Associates are supporters of the Fair Trade movement with limited rights. The WFTO Guarantee System does not apply to them.

  • Associate Organisations (AO)

    Associate Organisations align with WFTO’s values but after their application. They do not undergo monitoring and also have limited rights.

WFTO Guarantee System Monitoring Statuses

  • Candidates

    Candidates have been conditionally approved for membership but have not completed their first monitoring cycle under the WFTO Guarantee System. They have limited rights within WFTO. They may not use the WFTO Member Mark and Product Label or claim that they are monitored by WFTO.

  • Guaranteed Members

    Guaranteed members have met the WFTO Membership requirements and are monitored under the WFTO Guarantee System.

  • Member

    Organisations that have no or little income from trade go through a reduced version of the WFTO Guarantee System that does not include criteria related to trade. These organisations may use the WFTO Member Mark but cannot use the Product Label for any products they may be trading to support their mission. This status only applies to Fair Trade Networks (FTN) and Support Organisations (FTSO).

  • Renewal in Progress

    Members who are in the process of renewing their guaranteed status and are overdue on some requirements retain full rights while they work to meet the demands of the Guarantee System on an administrative or compliance level.

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WFTO welcomes applications from established Fair Trade Organisations as well as organisations that support Fair Trade. Individuals in their capacity as researchers, writers, consultants and specialists in their field who can contribute solid skills, knowledge and expertise to WFTO and members are also welcome.

Add Your Heading Text Initial requirements for organisations:

  • Compliance with the WFTO 10 Principles of Fair Trade. Please have a look at the WFTO Fair Trade Standard for more specific information on compliance with these principles.

  • All applicant organisations must already be duly registered (as a legal entity) and active for at least one year.

Who can apply?

  • Fair Trade Organisations (FTO)

    All companies, partnerships, co-partnerships and other legal bodies – as determined by the legal provisions of the country of the member concerned – that are directly engaged in Fair Trade. They may be producers or northern or southern based trading FTOs for whom Fair Trade is the main activity. To qualify for FTO membership, income from sales (turnover) must account for 50% or more of the total income. Applications for FTO membership cannot be accepted from organisations with no prior sales history.

  • Fair Trade Networks (FTN)

    Legal entities whose primary function is to serve as national or international associations of Fair Trade producers and/or Fair Trade Organisations.

  • Fair Trade Support Organisations (FTSO)

    Fair Trade Organisations where trading is not the main activity (proportion of trade is less than 50% of total income). These organisations are engaged in Fair Trade indirectly, through activities that promote and support Fair Trade. These activities can include business counselling, finance, advocacy or networking.

  • Associate Organisations

    This is a special category for national or international organisations that are interested in supporting and promoting Fair Trade, including donor organisations. Organisations that do not meet the one-year legal existence requirement also fit in this group.

  • Individual Associates

    Individual researchers, writers, consultants and specialists in their field that can support WFTO. WFTO expects its individual associates to be active Fair Trade supporters whose experience and expertise in their own particular field can be of practical benefit to WFTO's members. To apply, please submit a curriculum vitae.

    While FTO, FTN and FTSO are entitled to full WFTO membership, organizational and individual associates have only limited rights.

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The WFTO Product Label is more than just a Fair Trade symbol. It signifies not only that the practices across the supply chain are checked against the WFTO Fair Trade Standard, but it also represents support to the battle against poverty and inequality. Products carrying the WFTO Label are made and traded by Guaranteed Fair Trade Organisations dedicated to the sustainable Fair Trade economy. Every purchase of products with the WFTO Label supports small producers and their communities.

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