Corporate Eye

Socially Responsible Brands Jump on Fair Trade Certified Bandwagon

There is a new wave of socially responsible brand labeling available for companies to slap on their products called Fair Trade Certified. In 2008, 284 Fair Trade Certified products were launched in the United States, up from 130 in 2007.  According to an article in Brandweek, Mintel reports that most of the products attaching the new label to their brands are coffee, tea, herbs, cocoa, chocolate, fruit, sugar, rice, spices, cut flowers and (coming soon) wine.

What is Fair Trade Certified you ask?  It’s a product designation handed out in the United States by TransFair USA out of Oakland, California to signify products from farmers in locations such as Ghana or Costa Rica who, “work in safe labor conditions, use environmentally friendly practices and are paid at least a minimum floor price for their crop. These family farmers may also belong to a co-op that democratically decides how to invest their profits in building schools, health clinics or developing better business and sustainability practices.”

It seems like just a few years ago (although it was more like 15 or 20) that the organic label was the “must have” designation.  Many small companies leveraged the power of the organic label early on and created multi-million dollar brands from it.  Will companies and brands have similar success with the Fair Trade Certified designation?  Only time will tell, but as we wait and see, the interest in the designation (and corresponding store shelf space) is growing.

Not convinced that Fair Trade Certified is catching on?  Check out the statistics below (courtesy of Brandweek):

  • Wal-Mart stocks six Sam’s Choice Fair Trade Certified gourmet coffees.
  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts offers Fair Trade
    Certified Starbucks coffees.
  • eBay offers Fair Trade Certified products at
  • Starbucks offers Fair Trade Certified coffees in 20 nations and is planning a Fair Trade Certified Month promotion.
  • Retail sales of Fair Trade Certified coffee grew
    tenfold from 2001 to 2006 to $730 million.

It certainly appears that Fair Trade Certified is a trend that’s just beginning to ramp up in terms of awareness, recognition and interest.  So what do you think?  Is Fair Trade Certified the next “it” brand designation?

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.