Update on how the Fair Trade market is changing

Dear ,

We are writing with some insights on the commercial changes that are happening in Fair Trade. Over the last decade, the Fair Trade commercial model has evolved. The role of traditional Fair Trade importers has declined, as historically, large importers buying a broad range of products from many producers played a larger role. Meanwhile, many new Fair Trade buyers, focused on a smaller range of products, have joined WFTO.

Most traditional Fair Trade importers remain stable and continue to play a key role in facilitating market access for producers around the world.

In Europe, we are seeing growth among Fair Trade importers. The total sales of WFTO Europe members has gone from €313m in 2014 to €400m in 2018. Over the past 5 years, WFTO membership in Europe has increased each year, with fashion and home products the main focus for most new WFTO importers. These new members are taking our label and holistic approach to Fair Trade to new retailers and markets. New commercial actors are becoming aware of WFTO members and our label. We hope this can create new demand.

In the US and Canada, the members of our regional Fair Trade Network (Fair Trade Federation – FTF) play a key role in facilitating sales for WFTO producers. Across FTF membership of shops and importers, they actively preference products from WFTO members. Most of their Fair Trade importers and retailers have grown their sales in recent years, particularly those who have innovated their designs and products, and/or have diversified their approach to market access with both B2B and B2C marketing.
More broadly, demand for ethical products is expanding and WFTO members are focusing on meeting this demand. In our recent survey, members told us overwhelmingly that we (at WFTO) should focus on getting interest from commercial buyers (62% said this should be our first or second priority audience). The need to build awareness of WFTO members more broadly in the market is a message we are hearing loud and clear.

The combination of Fair Trade and eco-friendly products is drawing increasing interest. Many WFTO members are focusing on these opportunities and are seeing sales growth. In addition, our recent business models research found that new markets are opening up domestically and in places like South Korea and Thailand for many WFTO producers. The market for Fair Trade is becoming more diverse. This requires all of us to adapt and innovate.

Based on these developments, here are a few areas where we’re directing our small secretariat to support new opportunities:

1. Ensuring greater visibility on the world’s largest ethical fashion and homeware platform: Common Objective (25,000 industry professionals are now receiving more info about why they should source from WFTO members), as well as other online platforms

2. Upgrading our presence at the world’s leading consumer goods trade show: we invested into a new look for our stand and also conduct a press conference each year to profile WFTO with buyers at Ambiente
3. Upgrading our product search on our website, where we get thousands of potential buyers looking for WFTO members

4. Fundraising for projects that will increase visibility of WFTO within the commercial ethical market

5. Upgrading our communications (especially on social media) to better distinguish WFTO members and galvanise other communities/movements (e.g. social enterprise, circular economy, ethical fashion, organic) to promote us and talk about the unique business models of WFTO members

The changes in Fair Trade are impacting many WFTO members. However, new opportunities are also opening. Your work is inspiring and we need many more buyers and consumers to find out. This remains our biggest focus.

In solidarity, Roopa Mehta (President) and Erinch Sahan (Chief Executive)

(Source from http://wfto.com