You may have seen “Fairtrade” on labels at your local grocery store or at a coffee shop. But what does that mean?

Fairtrade is an organized system that can ensure producers, artisans and businesses worldwide are treated fairly. That means fair pricing and practices. Fairtrade also works to ensure environmental sustainability, fair labor conditions and the reinvestment of resources into local communities. Essentially, Fairtrade is for the betterment of all.

So who regulates Fairtrade, and who determines if a product or business can be labeled Fairtrade? Internationally, there is the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, or FLO, which coordinates Fairtrade labeling at an international level.  Their offices are located in Bonn, Germany and they:

* Set international Fairtrade standards
* Organize support for producers around the world
* Develop global Fairtrade strategy
* Promote trade justice internationally

Nationally, there is the Fair Trade Federation. The FTF was established to strengthen and promote North American organizations fully committed to fair trade. The Federation is part of the global Fairtrade movement, building equitable and sustainable trading partnerships and creating opportunities to alleviate poverty.

There is also an European Fair Trade Association. EFTA’s goal is to promote fair trade and to make fair trade importing more efficient and effective.

Another association is Fairtrade Action Network. The FAN was established to connect volunteers who are interested in promoting fair trade. Their goal is to create an internet community to share ideas and experiences on fair trade campaigning.

According to FLO, in 2008, Fairtrade certified sales amounted to approximately $4.08 billion worldwide, a 22 percent year-to-year increase. As of December 2008, 746 producer organizations in 58 developing countries were Fairtrade certified.

Buying Fairtrade products helps to ensure people around the world are treated and paid fairly.