What is Fair Trade?

Coffee farmers in Las Colinas El Salvador plant seedlings with CRS staff.

Photo By: Cheryl Mrazik

“Every economic…action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one’s own human potential.”

-Pope Francis

Our faith calls us to live out our Gospel values on a daily basis.  The Catholic social teaching principles of respecting the dignity of work and caring for the poor are key ways in which we can do this.  Through fair trade, we can use our economic power to contribute to the common good and live out these values.

The idea of fairness in trade is at least as old as our Christian faith. In fact, a good way to think about fair trade is to reflect on Jesus’ life as a carpenter, when he worked alongside his adoptive father, Joseph, and before he began his public ministry.  At its heart, fair trade is about building respectful, enduring relationships.

Fair Trade Is a Commitment to Building Relationships

Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the Global South.

We at CRS believe that Fair Trade embodies a comprehensive set of criteria, including, at a minimum, the following commitments:

These criteria were drawn from the Fair Trade Federation, a trade association for Fair Trade businesses in the United States and Canada.

Be a Fan of CRS Fair Trade


There are many ways you can become a Fan!  You can pray and learn more about the need for greater economic justice in the world, you can act by showing others how buying fair trade products is a reflection of your concern for human dignity and social responsibility, and you can give of your time by spreading the word about conscious consumerism.  You can also be a Fan by:
    1. Signing up for our e-newsletter, the Fair Trader.  Every other month, you’ll receive an email with inspiring stories about farmers and artisans who benefit from fair trade, information on events, and ways to get involved.
    2. Join our online community.  If you belong to Facebook, use the power of your network and invite your friends to Become a Fan of CRS Fair Trade. We also Tweet and Pin!  By harnessing the incredible viral power of social networks, even small efforts you make help us to get our message out.
    3. Check out our blog for farmer and artisan stories, information on our partners, and updates about the fair trade movement.  Please comment!  If you are a blogger or have your own website, please consider writing about us. Feel free to link to existing content on our website and blog.
    4. Be inspired by the work of our Fair Trade Ambassadors.  These super-volunteers promote the importance of buying Fair Trade!
    5. Sign up for Catholics Confront Global Poverty to take the next step: advocacy on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable of the world.

We thank you for all that you do for fair trade and Catholic Relief Services!

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