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How Does Fair Trade Work

Fair Trade USA™ takes a systematic approach to defining, measuring, and communicating the impact of our fair trade model.

It begins with our Theory of Change. It’s the vision for how fair trade programs work and catalyze change in the lives of people around the globe. The Theory of Change takes into account more than farmers or fishers. It applies to multiple stakeholders — business partners, traders, retailers, and consumers.

Here’s a simple way to think of the Theory of Change process:

What does that mean?

Fair Trade USA’s standards, and strategic partnerships, have led to the creation of tools (the inputs) and the development of programs (the outputs) that directly affect the lives of farmers, fishers, producers, and consumers. The outcomes seen, delivered, and experienced help Fair Trade USA and its partners make an impact by achieving system-wide goals: resilient and sustainable communities, prosperity for all, mutually beneficial trade, and conscious consumption.

See the Theory of Change

Our Impact Management System (IMS)

As part of our fair trade process to ensure the Theory of Change generates tangible results, Fair Trade USA has an Impact Management System (IMS) that monitors and evaluates each program. IMS provides Fair Trade USA and its partners with quantifiable ways to measure and evaluate every program in multiple product categories. It’s a system of continuous evaluation, refinement, and improvement to deliver the change needed for every stakeholder to succeed.

  • Community Organization
  • Increased Education
  • Individual Empowerment
  • Safe and Secure Workplaces
  • Income Stabilization
  • Consumer Understanding
  • Ethical Supply Chain
  • Strong and Successful Businesses

Fair Trade USA’s Theory of Change and IMS work together to help all stakeholders deliver on their sustainable sourcing and environmental, social and governance commitments. They also help deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Fair Trade Process

From certification to consumer purchase and reinvestment, the fair trade model is a virtuous cycle that ultimately improves the lives of workers, farmers, fishers, and their communities.