By Erinch Sahan, WFTO Chief Executive

18 August 2020

The pandemic is hitting businesses everywhere, with disruptions in retail, supply chains and production causing upheaval. The accompanying economic crisis is creating heightened risk and business uncertainty. The situation is particularly precarious for factories, workers and businesses who have become dependent on global brands. In response to the crisis, brands and retailers across the mainstream economy have delayed, put on hold, or straight up cancelled their orders. Sensing their leverage and the weakened position of their suppliers, some brands are even demanding further discounts from their suppliers on finished goods. In fashion, the Clean Clothes Campaign and others are raising these concerns and putting pressure on brands to #PayUp so the workers who make their products can survive.

Meanwhile through this crisis, we are witnessing practices and behavior from Fair Trade Enterprises that is a stark contrast. At WFTO, we have monitored practices by social enterprises who fully practice Fair Trade (WFTO members) and we found a different reality. At a time of widespread cancellation of orders and increasing layoffs across global supply chains, WFTO research found that for Fair Trade Enterprises through the crisis:

  • 91 per cent provided suppliers with additional flexibility;
  • 71 per cent retained all staff; and
  • 86 per cent kept all orders.

In some ways, this is not surprising. The 366 Fair Trade Enterprises that make up the WFTO are structured as mission-led enterprises, who exist to benefit their workers, farmers and artisans, reinvesting the majority of their profits to this end. They do not have shareholders demanding increased returns but instead are social enterprises with a comprehensive commitment to Fair Trade. They are commercially viable, earning their income through trade. Yet commercial viability is a vastly different paradigm to the extraction of maximum profits for shareholders. This shows in their behavior during COVID-19.

While the term ‘corporate purpose’ has become a buzz word, it is often in a crisis that we can determine what is really the priority for companies. For most mainstream brands, sadly the pursuit of maximum profits remains the ultimate goal. The lack of concern for suppliers during the crisis clearly demonstrates this. In sharp contrast, Fair Trade Enterprises are showing that putting people and planet first is in fact a viable choice.

In the wake of the crisis, policy-makers, investors, consumers and citizens can help truly transform the business world, by supporting business models that are designed for mission-primacy, rather than profit-primacy. This may be critical to get through this crisis and prepare for the next.

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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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