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Countdown to Fairtrade Fortnight; What is Fairtrade?

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Highlights 2022-2023
Sustainable Consumption

Hiya! I’m Emma, one of the Student Sustainability Architects, specifically working on sustainability with Great Food at Leeds; the University’s catering service.

The countdown to Fairtrade Fortnight 2023 is on, being held from February 27 to March 12 2023, and this year’s message is simple: making the small switch to Fairtrade supports producers in protecting the future of some of our most-loved food and the planet. Find out how you can get involved!

But what is Fairtrade? What are Fairtrade’s connections with sustainability? And how is the University involved with Fairtrade? 

What is Fairtrade?

Fairtrade targets the injustices of conventional trade which has typically discriminated against the producers in developing countries, promoting better prices, better working conditions, and more sustainable practices, to make trade fair.

The social, economic, and environmental standards enforced by Fairtrade protects workers’ rights and working conditions, ensures a minimum price is paid to cover the average costs of producing crops sustainably, and provides an additional sum of money to communities referred to as the Fairtrade Premium that farmers and workers can invest in community, environmental or business projects of their choice.

The FAIRTRADE Mark is a registered certification label for products that have been certified in accordance with the stringent Fairtrade social, economic, and environmental standards. The FAIRTRADE Mark is widely regarded as the most recognised ethical label, with 93% of UK shoppers claiming to recognise the label, with 83% trusting it to decide whether a product is ethical.

Fairtrade or fair trade?

Not quite sure what the difference is between fair trade and Fairtrade? Fair trade (two words) refers to the broader movement working towards more trade justice and sustainable production and consumption worldwide, whereas Fairtrade (one word) refers to the certification and labelling system governed by Fairtrade International.

How does Fairtrade connect with sustainability?

Fairtrade and sustainability are both about people, meeting their needs today without compromising the needs of people in the future. Fairtrade empowers workers and farmers to improve their quality of life through ensuring the Fairtrade minimum price is paid with the additional benefit of the Fairtrade Premium, facilitating farmers and workers to face a number of economic, environmental and social challenges in their communities, therefore directly linking to the goals of sustainability.

The aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals align with many of the aims of Fairtrade; ending poverty, achieving food security, promoting decent work and economic growth, reducing inequality, and promoting responsible consumption to name a few.

Of the 169 targets underlying the goals, there is barely a single one that is not somehow related to food and farming, meaning that smallholder farmers and workers have a central role to play. Fairtrade international provide a comprehensive overview of how the aims of Fairtrade and the SDGs align if you’re interested in exploring this further.

How does Fairtrade link to climate change?

Did you know coffee, bananas, and chocolate could soon be much more difficult to find on our shelves?

Climate change is making crops like these harder and harder to grow, with more extreme weather events, increasing global temperatures, and disruption to weather patterns causing increases in crop diseases and pests, all having potentially detrimental impacts.

The reality for millions of farmers worldwide is that, no matter how hard they work, they are unable to earn enough for essentials like food, clean water and medical treatment because of modern trade structures built on the legacy of colonialism and centuries of exploitation. With so many people unable to afford the essentials, communities in the countries that produce crops like coffee, cocoa and bananas are finding it extremely hard to adapt to climate change, and communities are being pushed to the brink.

Despite contributing the least to the climate crisis, these communities are disproportionately affected, already living with the worst consequences. Although farmers have the know-how and experience, they have fewer financial resources to adapt to changes in climate. And this is where we have a part to play, with the opportunity to help through supporting Fairtrade.

How is the University of Leeds involved with Fairtrade?

We are a Fairtrade University and have been since 2005! The Fairtrade University and College Award acknowledges institutions that have embedded ethical and sustainable practices through their curriculum, procurement, research and campaigns.

Our two-star status recognises the broad range of activities undertaken within the University, including raising awareness and increasing availability of Fairtrade products in the university, further supporting work towards a more just, equal and sustainable world for all. Our cross-University Fairtrade Steering Group is already working towards the next submission for the 2023-24 award.

Graphic image with purple background and a banner at the top with two white stars. Black text reads 'Fairtrade university award'

Fair Trade International Symposium

Leeds’ strong links to Fairtrade, being a Fairtrade university, Fairtrade city, within Yorkshire that was the first Fairtrade region, has all contributed to Leeds being the host for the next Fair Trade International Symposium, being held at the University between June 19 – 21 2023.

The Fair Trade International Symposium is the leading global gathering for scholars, practitioners and policymakers working on fair trade. Volunteers will be essential to help run the event and they will also have the opportunity to hear the main speakers and get involved in workshops when not helping out.

This is an amazing opportunity for those interested in fair trade or those wanting to find out more, if you’d be interested in volunteering, please email Anne Tallontire at

Get involved!

Your opinions will help to inform future Fairtrade opportunities at the University and may contribute to research that will be shared at the Fair Trade International Symposium being held in Leeds in June.

To voice your opinions, or have your fairtrade questions answered, use our online Fairtrade Discussion Board!

For more information about Fairtrade, explore the resources below:

Keep up to date on the latest news

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our work on Student Citizenship links to all of the SDGs.

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.