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    Who's Who in Fair Trade


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 2/2006

    Find out more about the origins of the fair trade movement, as well as the main labels and networks of organizations active today.

    How it started

    The fair trade commodity and crafts movement credits the United States initiative called Ten Thousand Villages (formerly Self Help Crafts) with taking the first steps in this trade. Ten Thousand Villages began buying needlework from Puerto Rico in 1946. Another US organization known as SERRV began trading 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 United States. 

    Oxfam UK started to sell crafts made by Chinese refugees in Oxfam shops, then set up the first Fair Trade Organization in 1967. The Netherlands created an importing organization, Fair Trade Organisatie, in the same year. The first Third World Shop opened in 1969.

    Many organizations credit UNCTAD with giving the equitability concept a boost in 1968 with its "Trade Not Aid" motto at its second conference.

    Handicrafts were the main fair trade initiatives at first, followed in 1973 by coffee, which today accounts for 25-50% of the turnover of industrial countries' fair trade organizations.

    Fair trade labels

    Max Havelaar is generally credited with introducing the first fair trade label, in 1988 in the Netherlands. Max Havelaar now sells in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Denmark and Norway.

    Fair Trade Mark is found in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

    TransFair is known in Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the United States, Canada and Japan. Finland and Sweden sell products with the Rättvisemärkt label.

    In 1997, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International became the umbrella organization for the European Union's four main labelling groups. FLO states: "It permits more than one million producers, workers and their dependants in 50 countries to benefit from labelled Fairtrade."

    Fair trade networks

    In the United States, the Fair Trade Federation, based in the offices of Coop America, is an association of fair trade wholesalers, retailers and producers whose members are committed to providing fair wages and good employment opportunities to economically disadvantaged artisans and farmers worldwide.

    IFAT, the International Fair Trade Association, a Netherlands-based global network of 270 fair trade organizations, held its first international conference in 1991. It sees its job as threefold: market development; fair trade monitoring; and advocacy. It works closely with the credit-provider Shared Interest.

    The Netherlands-based European Fair Trade Association (EFTA) unites the 11 largest importing organizations in Europe.

    The Network of European World Shops (NEWS!) claims 2,500 associated outlets with 100,000 volunteers in 13 European countries.

    FINE, a combination of FLO, IFAT, EFTA and NEWS!, started to meet in 1998.

    Oikocredit, based in the Netherlands, is the world's largest source of private finance in the micro-financing sector with an active investment portfolio of €160 million. Troidos Bank, also based in the Netherlands, provides finance to certified fair trade and organic producer organizations.

    Similar initiatives can be found in the United Kingdom's Ethical Trading Initiative, the Dutch Fair Wear Foundation and France's Ethical Labelling Collective. STEP and Rugmark specialize in labour conditions in the carpeting industry. There is also a Flower Label Program (FLP).