Authentic fair trade

Authentic Fair trade ? We use the terms by the producers themselves.

The authenticity of the Small producers’  Symbol is deeply rooted in the founding values and principles of fair trade. Those values, when translated in standards and codified practices, will necessarily adapt to markets and to the actors involved in those markets.

Time goes by : markets grow, actors evolve as well as certifiers who adapt their standards to follow those evolutions. Values still need to be the beacon toward which we look at, as a movement.

Fair trade values :

The Fair Trade practices that advance these goals typically, but not always, include:

1. Direct trade relationships and long term contracts between importers and producer groups

2. Sourcing from small-farmer or artisan co-operative where profit is equally redistributed and community is at the heart of every decision;

3. Higher than conventional market prices, either through above-market premiums and/or price floors.  Substantial price premiums for the production of certified organic crops;

4. Long-term commercial relationship with the provision of affordable credit;

5. Adherence to the policies of the International Labor Organization, especially those concerning child and forced labor and the right to collective bargaining;

6. Education :  alternative trade organizations inform the consumers on international trade and producers involved in fair trade.

7. Environmental stewardship The prohibition of the use of the more dangerous pesticides and herbicides


Where does the Small producers’ Symbol fits into that ? Initially created by the latin american and carribean fair trade confederation (1 million producers) it now expands to Asia (Indonesia) and will include, eventually, african co-ops as well.

In substance, the Symbol represents the following characteristics :

  • prices and other conditions determined by the producers themselves;
  • the Symbol will not serve as a tool to greenwash reputations (more money spent on promoting fair trade than purchased) : minimum purchases of 25% of total purchases;
  • no multinationals, no private large landowners’ plantations; no agri-business : only co-ops;
  • prices higher than traditional fair trade;
  • less bureaucracy + simultaneous organic inspection  = lower system costs;
  • Independant control: the standard-setter is 100% independant from the organization controlling the complianceé

In combination with the organic certification, the Symbol pushes further the practice of fair trade.


There are many path to ethical consumption, so there are many ways to trade fairly.


From auto-declaration to third party certification, there is a world of difference. Third-party certifications ? The Small producers’ Symbol, the fairtrade logo (and its old black and white version, still valid but slowly disappearing), rainforest alliance (the green frog), ecocert equitable, etc.


Fair trade actors choose their certifier for different reasons : values, price, ease of compliance, etc.


For Santropol coffee Roasters, our support for the Symbol is a way to lower our own standards. Social, ecological and quality-wise, quite contraire. And we are not alone : fair trade pioneers are doing so Equal Exchange and Just Coffee in the USA, Ethiquable in France, Just Us! in Nova Scotia.

Fair trade is about values and standards who implement those values.
Hundreds of qualified inspectors roam the world, North and South, to insure compliance to those standards.
There used to be one logo. Now, in North America, a few are now recognized and legitimate.Fairtrade, Small producers’ Symbol, Ecocert equitable, World Fair Trade Organization and Fair trade federation.
In the end, it’s only a coffee bag. What difference does it really make ?
Well, this purchase is still an act of solidarity. It’s one of the millions of hands  on one of the million shoulders symbolizing the deep belief that together we can imagine and realize another world : one that will be fair, green and social.