Fair Trade International

Fairtrade International has 2 relevant standards for the clothing industry:

  • Fairtrade - Textile standard: This standard is for processing the fabrics into clothing, i.e. weaving, sewing, knitting, etc.
  • Fairtrade - Small-scale producer organizations: This is for small cotton farmer corporations. This often concerns small family farms that together form a corporation and democratically decided to be part of Fairtrade. This concerns the process from sowing to separating the cotton wool from the seeds and plant.

If a brand plans to use Fairtrade cotton, it concerns the latter. If the entire garment is Fairtrade certified, it concerns the Textile standard.

> View the next certificate: Fair Wear Foundation

How FTI scores on a scale of 1 to 4

Find out what's the story behind your clothing by understanding the certificates. Use the scores to discover at a glance what a certificate means in different sustainability areas.

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Fair Trade

Animal welfare




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Fair production stands for more than no child labour


Fairtrade certified organizations must continue to improve in the field of environmental impact. The conditions that the organizations should meet will therefore be stricter every three years, but the organisations have time to improve. There are criteria for years 0, 1, 3 and 6.

Criteria for cotton production:

  • Pesticides must be handled responsibly.
  • A plan must be made so that the groundwater is not polluted with pesticides, herbicides and manure.
  • There should be a plan to use water sustainably, and members of the organization should be taught how to use water in a sustainable way.
  • There will be no deforestation, amd a plan will be made to combat deforestation, finally, the organisation should focus on increasing biodiversity. 
  • Waste must be dealt with responsibly, starting with proper storage and ending with recycling and composting in part.
  • No GMOs are used (this applies to year 0, so a hard criterion)
  • The organisation should prepare for the consequences of climate change and use as much green energy as possible ( these rules are getting stricter every year).

Criteria for textile processing: 

  • Processes that are hazardous to the environment and human health are prohibited (example: Chlorine bleaching, sandblasting, using nano-materials)
  • Waste water from the wet processes is treated (from year 0) and a water reduction plan must be drawn up .
  • Hazardous emissions must be reduced.

Score 2/4 Fairtrade certified organizations that have been with Fairtrade for more than 6 years would get a higher score here, but since organizations can also be affiliated with Fairtrade for just one year, we decided to make the score a 2. 

Fair Trade

Fairtrade also has different criteria for working conditions, depending on how long the brand has been certified. There are different criteria for year 0, 1, 3 and 6.

Criteria for cotton production: All criteria without a year apply from year 0.

  • There must be no discrimination.
  • There must be no pregnancy testing when recruiting employees, as well as HIV/AIDS or other genetic defects.
  • There must be no abuse.
  • There must be no gender-based violence or other violence.
  • There must be no forced labour.
  • Wives of employees are free to work elsewhere if they wish.
  • No child labor (No children under 15 in work or of older age if local child labor law dictates a higher age), and no hazardous work for children under 18.
  • There is the opportunity to join unions or workers' organizations to connect. If there are no unions, an employee organization must be established within the company within three years.
  • The wage must be the legal minimum wage or the average wage for the same work (whichever is higher). This wage must be increased every year and after 6 years a living wage or higher must be paid. After 6 years, all secondary working conditions must also be good, such as social security and maternity leave.
  • The workplace must be safe and clean.
  • There must be good facilities such as toilets, a place to shower and wash hands.


Criteria for textile production: The criteria for textile production are about the same as for cotton production, there are only slightly stricter rules when it comes to the protection of the workers, such as a number of points below:

  • There must be one rest week per week, there must be breaks at work.
  • Overtime must be paid 1.5 times the hourly wage
  • Women should get at least 8 weeks maternity leave.
  • Women should be given time to breastfeed.

Score: 4/4 Fairtrade has very strict rules when it comes to fair production.

Animal welfare/Vegan

Non-applicable to the Fair Trade International certificate. 

Reporting and improvement

Fairtrade audit reports are not made public. Fairtrade is very focused on long-term cooperation, so they also have different criteria depending on how long a company has been certified. In this way, they ensure that companies continue to improve socially and environmentally.

Score: 2/4 Fairtrade is committed to improving, but the reports are not shared openly.


The control for the certification is carried out at Fairtrade by a third independent party. This will first do a check, after which the company will receive the certificate for 3 years. Within those three years, 2 extra checks can be carried out (less is also possible), which could also be unexpected if there was a reason to do so. In the third year in which the certification is valid, there will be another check to see if the certification can be renewed.

Score 4/4

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