Is your workplace Fairtrade certified?

by Stephanie Zillman17 Sep 2013

HR plays a crucial role in demonstrating an organisation’s commitment to and recognition of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and with good reason – CSR has a proven impact on employee engagement and retention.

Whilst each year many organisations endeavour to take part in at least one major CSR initiative, demonstrating a daily commitment to recognising a company’s impact on society is pretty much unheard of – or is it? How about if every time an employee brews a cup of tea or coffee, they could rest assured the organisation is going the extra mile in considering their impact? Enter Fairtrade status for workplaces.

Becoming a Fairtrade workplace is a way to support and promote fair trade and be recognised for the commitment. Fairtrade ensures equitable trading partnerships, and this is achieved by providing better trading conditions through stable, minimum prices for products and resources which could otherwise have been produced under exploitative circumstances. As the vast majority of tea and coffee is sourced from developing economies, ensuring that a fair price is paid to the producers is paramount to safeguarding human rights.

Organisations interested in becoming a Fairtrade workplace must satisfy minimum requirements for the certification, and continue to do so on an ongoing basis.

Minimum requirements

  • Fairtrade certified tea and coffee is served as the default option in kitchenette, canteens, at meetings, after services, and at other events where tea and coffee are used.
  • Promote fair trade to staff, clients, members or customers. For example, posters could be placed on noticeboards, stickers placed in windows, information sheets left in staff rooms etc, in order to publicise fair trade and inform staff and the wider community of the principles behind fair trade.

Suggested goals

  • Hold or support an event during Fairtrade Fortnight (held in May each year), such as a morning tea.
  • The organisation endeavours to incorporate other Fairtrade products into the organisation such as Fairtrade Certified cotton, sports balls, chocolate, sugar, and WFTO gifts and crafts.
  • Where fundraising opportunities arise, a range of Fairtrade recognised products could be used.

Costs of participation

  • There is no cost to sign up to the scheme
  • In some cases, Fairtrade Certified products can be a little more expensive than their conventionally traded counterparts due to fairer prices being paid to developing country producers.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) has been accredited as the largest Fairtrade workplace in the world, after ensuring all supplies of tea and coffee across its 800 workplaces are Fairtrade certified. “Supporting Fairtrade tea and coffee will provide improved working conditions, stability and trading potential to disadvantaged communities and also give our people a reason to be proud,” Gavin Slater from NAB said. He added that the switch reflects the bank’s broader commitment to sustainability, and when the initiative was started in 2009, the employee intranet was inundated with messages of support.

The impact of Australian businesses switching to fairly traded products is acutely felt across the globe. “The impact of these procurement choices mean that not only can farmers grow and develop their business but they can send their kids to school, build roads and ensure access to better health care in their communities,” Carley Swan, from Fairtrade Australia said.


  • by Jonathan 19/09/2013 9:39:37 AM

    Fairtrade is good, but if you can find a roaster who uses direct trade coffee, you'll be doing even more good (and most likely getting a better quality coffee to boot).

    This article explains the differences:

    Many of the specialty coffee roasters in Australia use direct trade (Mecca, Proud Mary, Five Senses, Veneziano, and Campos, to name a few).

  • by Grant 20/09/2013 8:43:43 AM

    I am very committed to fairtrade and think this is a great initiative. I will stress one important distinction between fair trade and direct trade that makes me prefer fair trade and that is that fair trade ensures everyone who is working on that farm is a part of a cooperative that gains benefit from the reasonable pricing of their product. It is all measured against an audited and transparent standard. Direct trade is specifically with the owner of the farm and there are no guarantees that they are passing their increased profit on to their workers.

  • by David 20/09/2013 4:13:01 PM

    Having spent a number of years researching and working with communities that are certified fairtrade. I have found that the cost of compliance is bourne by the community while the profit is received by the middlemen. Buying beans and roasting in ustralia means the producers get very little and have restricted job opportunities. the only way to ensure communies benefit is to ensure value adding occurs in country and to buy from suppliers that ensure they encourage value adding within Country. that is why I buy from Tradewinds ( a not for profit working with communites to supply tea and coffee at a fair price.

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