What is a Fair Trade City?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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A Fair Trade City is a city that has committed to promoting and using products that have a Fairtrade Certification (Fair Trade in the U.S. and Canada). This certification indicates that the products are sourced in ethical ways through producers who have been provided with fair and reasonable compensation at every step of the supply chain. Several certifying organizations around the world are qualified to offer certification to Fair Trade Cities and Towns, and other communities. The concept of certifying entire communities as fair trade developed in the United Kingdom in the 2000s and has spread to many other regions of the world.

The goal of Fairtrade Certification is to provide people who have traditionally been disadvantaged in trade relations with more opportunities. This brings more money to small communities around the world and it directly benefits many developing nations. Coffee and chocolate are two products that are commonly fair trade certified, but many other objects can be certified as well.

To become a Fair Trade City, a city needs to launch an organizing campaign to demonstrate commitment and meet the certification standards. It can take several years, especially in a large city. The community standards are described by the Fairtrade Foundation in the United Kingdom as the “five C's:” council, commerce, community, common consensus, and committee.


The “council” refers to a commitment by the city council to purchase and use fair trade products for meetings and events. “Commerce” reflects the availability of certified products at most merchants in the community, even if only a few items are offered, while community organizations and employers pledge to meet “community” by buying, using, and supporting fair trade products. Media promotion and outreach indicates that the community has reached a “common consensus” and agreed to commit to being a Fair Trade City, while the “committee” is responsible for keeping the Fair Trade City on track with its goals.

Once a city has demonstrated that it has met the goals and has measures in place to ensure that it stays committed and expands the use of fair trade products in the community, it can be certified as a Fair Trade City. Cities are allowed to advertise this and can be found listed in directories that may be used by people deciding where they want to travel and do business. People can opt to actively seek out Fair Trade Cities as part of a goal of doing business and touring in communities that support ethical business, trade, and labor practices.



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