An SME’s Guide to Fair Trade Principles

An SME’s Guide to Fair Trade Principles

Here's our guide outlining how UK SMEs can get involved with the fair trade movement, including a quick look at a couple of the UK businesses championing fair trade

By Jyoti Patel

We’ve put together this guide for UK SMEs to understand how fair trade impacts them and how they can get involved. We’ve also highlighted a couple of UK SMEs who are factoring fair trade into their overall offering, in the hope that this inspires other small businesses.

What is fair trade?

Fair trade is a way to make a difference to those who grow and produce goods by ensuring they are paid and treated fairly.

In particular, fair trade aims to increase standards of living and reduce risk and vulnerability of workers in supply chains. This is done through establishing better prices, decent working conditions and a fairer deal for workers in developing countries.

As such, the Fairtrade Foundation sets social, economic and environmental standards for both companies and workers to protect workers’ rights and the environment. Good working conditions, no child labour, no forced labour and no discrimination are just some of the conditions which must be met. If a product meets these standards, it can be officially certified FAIRTRADE.

Why should UK SMEs consider getting involved?

As an SME ourselves, we understand that costs can be tight when getting your business up and running. Fair trade can therefore be something that you put off and aim to address later down the line. But it’s important to consider what fair trade can do not only for the wider world, but also for your business and your overall brand image. 

The FAIRTRADE Mark is one of the most widely recognized labels in the world, and is the most reputable ethical certification a product can get. Over 90% of British people recognize it, and it immediately gives businesses a credibility which resonates with consumers and speaks volumes about your overall approach and ethical practices.

By supporting fair trade, your business demonstrates that it's actively empowering others around the world. It signals that you’re taking active steps to ensure those in your supply chain are treated fairly. So, along with being good for the wider environment, getting involved with fair trade can also establish your SME as an ethical organisation as part of your wider corporate social responsibility.

What’s more, there has been a shift in consumer attitude to fair trade and ethically-made products, and the growing generation of consumers are increasingly conscious of how their products are sourced and made.

If you’re struggling to think of ways to get involved, remember that although tea, coffee and chocolate are most commonly associated with the fair trade movement, flowers, cotton, juices, sugar, herbs, beauty products and even wine can also bear the FAIRTRADE Mark. By choosing fair trade products, whether you’re producing them yourself, stocking and selling them to customers, or simply promoting fair trade refreshments in customer waiting areas, you’re ensuring workers around the world receive a fair price, and that they are empowered to improve their lives through their work.

UK SMEs championing fair trade

As outlined above, there are many ways to get on board with the fair trade movement. To understand this a little better, we’ve highlighted three UK businesses who have made fair trade a crucial part of their overall offering.

Cocoa Loco

Organic & Fair Trade Chocolates | West Sussex

Cocoa Loco produces chocolate that’s better for the planet and better for our bodies. It’s both 100% organic and fair trade, with cocoa beans grown in the Dominican Republic by a community of small-scale growers. The selection of artisan produce also extends to baked goods, truffles, hot chocolate and a range of vegan chocolate. Packaging is also compostable, which makes these handmade treats taste even sweeter. 

As a result of Cocoa Loco's efforts to help growers in the Dominican Republic, schools in the country have been built and repaired, with scholarships and equipment provided to students from poorer families. The cooperative which the business sources beans from has benefited from a new IT centre to help children with school work whilst also giving the community access to the internet. A clinic, free medical checks, and clean water projects are also improving the health of locals in the area.

You can learn more about how the Cocoa Loca team are supporting fair trade by reading their story online, or by following them on Instagram or Twitter to keep up with the latest.


Fair Trade Fashion | North Cornwall

Nomads has been dedicated to creating beautiful clothing with ethical values since 1989. The business has been fair trade since day one, and embraces the slow fashion movement by ensuring that ethical practices and sustainability are at the core of its supply chain.

All garments are made with natural fibres and GOTS certified organic cotton, while their stunning prints are created with Azo free, environmentally approved dyes. You can be sure you’re getting something truly unique when you shop with Nomads, as the nature of the team's handloom process means no two garments they produce are ever the same.  

Products are also sent to customers in biodegradable packaging made from FSC sustainable sources, and the business is totally transparent about every step of the production process, as outlined on the company website. Nomads is also a proud member of the London-based online platform Common Objective, which aims to make sustainable fashion the norm. 

To learn more about the wider impact Nomads’ ethics have had, take a look at the business' fair trade policy. You can also keep up with the company on Instagram and Twitter.


Natural Skincare & Makeup | Mildenhall, Suffolk

This family-run business has been producing hand-made natural skincare products from its Suffolk workshop since 1984. It was the first UK brand to launch skincare certified as both organic and fair trade. 

Odylique’s offering is based around ingredients which have a therapeutic value, so most products have herbs and essential oils as active ingredients. You'll find products ranging from make up and skincare, to products made specifically for the needs of babies and new mums. You can even select treatments for specific skin concerns such as eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. 

Odylique's line is also free from synthetic chemicals and certified to strict Soil Association organic standards. Products are never tested on animals and are all packaged responsibly, so you'll have a totally guilt-free conscience when pampering yourself.

If you want to know more, take a look at Odylique’s fair trade policy or keep up with the latest product releases on Instagram or Twitter.

Get involved

These SMEs are just a few of the many UK businesses getting involved with fair trade. Fairtrade International’s annual report 2019 - 2020 can give you a good summary of where the UK sits and how to get involved.

If you’re looking for ways to integrate fair trade into your overall offering, then this in-depth fair trade purchasing guide created by the Fairtrade Foundation is an excellent resource to help you get started. It covers why and where you can buy, stock and source fair trade products for your UK business.  

If you have any other questions about fair trade for your SME, take a look at the Fairtrade Foundation’s useful guide covering the different aspects of fair trade for business. Or, if you have questions about the regulations regarding the FAIRTRADE Mark, take a look at the Fairtrade Foundation’s business FAQs.