Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Fair Trade certification and FTF membership?

We refer to FTF’s screening process as a membership, rather than a certification. Certification is offered by agencies such as Fairtrade International, IMO Fair for Life, and Fair Trade USA. Certification entails a supply chain audit that evaluates the production of a specific product. FTF’s membership screening process consists of a self-reported application designed to gather information about applicants’ holistic commitment to fair trade in all facets of the business model, including the product supply chain.

At this time, fair trade certification is only available for certain types of products—mostly agricultural and commodity items. Many FTF members who sell commodities and agricultural goods have also pursued fair trade certification for their products. However, fair trade product certification is not required to become an FTF member. Our members find that FTF membership is a useful way to distinguish themselves in the market as organizations that are fully dedicated to fair trade.


How many applicants are accepted/denied?

Historically, approximately 50-60% of all applicants are accepted as FTF members. Some applicants are denied the first time they apply, but are accepted later after making changes to their business model. FTF always strives to make the application process productive, meaningful, and informative, both for applicants that are accepted and applicants that are denied. After the Screening Committee makes their decision, FTF provides feedback and explanation to the applicant.


What if my business is located outside the United States & Canada?

Organizations based outside of the U.S. and Canada are not eligible for FTF membership. However, there are a number of other options available. FTF encourages fair trade organizations located outside the U.S. and Canada to apply for membership in the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), the global network for fully committed fair trade organizations. WFTO also has regional and country-based fair trade networks, including the Cooperation for Fair Trade in Africa (COFTA), WFTO-Asia, WFTO-Latin America, and more.


I sell some products made in the United States and/or Canada. Is that fair trade?

Fair trade is a tool for poverty alleviation in the Global South. Products made in the U.S., Canada, and other countries with high levels of economic development—for example, products made by local artists in the U.S.—are not considered fair trade products under the FTF Code of Practice. The reason for the focus on products from the Global South is that artisans and farmers in those regions face greater economic and social difficulties, as well as greater structural barriers to sustainable development.

FTF does allow retailer members to sell some products made by economically and socially marginalized producers in the Global North (including the U.S. and Canada). These products must also be produced in accordance with Fair Trade Principles. No more than 15% of a retailer’s inventory may consist of products made by marginalized producers in the Global North.


Do I need to sell 100% fair trade products to be eligible for membership?

With very few exceptions, yes. However, it is acceptable for FTF members to sell a small amount of items that are not available through fair trade supply chains—for example, educational items like books and CDs, and items like cups and coffee stirs. For more detailed information, please refer to the Sourcing Requirements on pages 10-12 of the Code of Practice.

FTF members may not sell non-fair trade items produced in the Global South.


What can I do if I am not yet eligible to apply?

Focus on building a successful business model. FTF membership is a wonderful asset to your business, and some fair trade stores do purchase products only from accepted FTF members. However, FTF membership is not (and should not be) the only way to grow a successful, trustworthy fair trade business. Learn how to tell your story well.

You can also take advantage of some of the business development resources that FTF provides to the public. Attending an FTF Conference (held annually each spring) is a great way to connect with the fair trade movement and learn from experienced fair trade business leaders.


Is there a minimum sales requirement in order to be considered as a member?

No, there is no minimum sales requirement.


Does the Screening Committee interview me when they are considering my application?

No. The Screening Coordinator acts as the liaison between applicants and the Screening Committee. All application materials are collected in writing so that they can be easily shared with the Screening Committee members.


Do you have a question that’s not answered here?
Contact FTF’s Screening Coordinator by telephone at 302-655-5024 or by email at screening@fairtradefederation.org.