A FEST Brand on What it Takes to Become Fair Trade

What does it really take to become a truly fair trade business? Plenty of organizations use the phrase “fair trade” to describe their products and suppliers, but becoming a recognized and trusted fair trade brand is more than ethical practices and a feel-good marketing angle.
To learn more about the process of becoming a fair trade business, we checked in with ethical subscription box brand GlobeIn, makers of the Artisan Box, a customizable themed gift box packed with an assortment of goods created by artists, craftspeople and farmers living in remote communities around the world. The Deepak Chopra-backed company, whose co-founder Liza Moiseeva came onto the Spirit of 608 podcast last week to talk digital marketing tactics that have worked for her growing brand, received its membership to the Fair Trade Federation this month.
But what does it take for a rapidly growing startup with a small team to apply and get accepted? Read on for Liza’s insight and insider take on the application process:
Joining some organizations is quick & easy. But becoming a member of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) requires companies to be in operation for at least one year while adhering to nine fair trade principles established by the organization. How big of an undertaking was it for GlobeIn to pursue membership? 
GlobeIn has been operating on the nine Fair Trade principles since day one, so it was merely a matter of collecting all the information from our artisans and partner organizations as well as taking a deeper look at our internal operations. Definitely set aside at least 20 hours of work (between 2-3 people) to collect all the information and fill out the application form. This will also depend on who (and how many people) are in possession of all the operational information about your organization. If you are a one-person team with all the knowledge, you can get it done pretty efficiently.
To help, you can see more on the nine principles and our membership announcement here.
What do you wish you had known before you began the application process? Anything you’d advise a FEST brand to do that would make the application process easier or more efficient?
If you are a truly sustainable brand that operates on the principles of Fair Trade, the application will be pretty straight-forward. If anything, the process of filling out the application will make you analyze your operations from the fair trade angle and think deeper about the social impact you are creating as a company (if any).
For us, the Fair Trade application was more of a time-commitment that put a strain on an already small team, but in the end it was worth it. It is hard to tell if it is worth it from the marketing perspective but from an internal perspective, we couldn’t be happier.
When it comes to fair trade in general, what do you see looking ahead? Are we on a path towards fair trade becoming not so much the exception and more achievable for mainstream brands or will it remain a niche distinction for a small number of consumer product companies?
Fair Trade is not easy. While I definitely see consumers’ strong demand for more transparency and sustainability, be it in the food or fashion industry, I also see how truly difficult “doing things right” can be from an operational and financial standpoint. Fair Trade and ethical consumption niches are definitely growing and slowly becoming mainstream. That said, I do think that it will take a good 5-10 years before they truly become mainstream.
For more on how GlobeIn is making an impact in communities around the world, check out this video created after the team’s recent trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.

Images courtesy GlobeIn


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