New Sustainable Development Goals and Fair Trade: our preliminary analysis


25 September 2015 (Brussels) – The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) welcomes the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and encourages governments to partner up with the Fair Trade movement for the implementation phase.

Today, world leaders are gathering at the three-day United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Summit 2015 in New York for the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“For the first time, the United Nations have agreed on a series of shared objectives that will apply to all, eliminating the old division between North and Southern countries. It makes us all responsible for the planet we inhabit and respectful of all its populations. That is, in itself, already an improvement compared to the old Millennium Development Goals” said Sergi Corbalán, FTAO Executive Director.

Of the new set of 17 goals, the FTAO particularly welcomes the commitment to promote sustainable production and consumption (Goal 12). Every day, we see the difference that sustainable production – from fair prices to proper labour conditions – makes for marginalised producers and workers. We also acknowledge the importance of making consumers aware of the impact of their consumption’s decisions. The Fair Trade movement looks forward to working with governments, private sector actors and other stakeholders to make this a global reality by 2030.

Moreover, we are also pleased with the recognition of the role that the private sector can play in the implementation of the new SDGs. The success of Fair Trade shows how the private sector can be a fundamental driver of poverty reduction and sustainable development. Yet private sector must not be understood as governments working with large companies only. Organised producer groups, such as small-scale farmer cooperatives, should become key partners for governments in practical implementation of the new Agenda 2030.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development will be indispensable to implement the SDGs. Fair Trade is an excellent example of a partnership where many stakeholders around the world and at different stages along the supply chain come together to ensure market access for disadvantaged producers and workers, guarantee sustainable livelihoods, respect labour standards, phase out child labour and encourage environmentally-sustainable farming and production practices. Our experience is that multi-stakeholder partnerships are also fruitful when the voice of the weaker actors is properly heard, as a recent report[1] from the Fairtrade Foundation shows.

Partnerships with local and regional authorities have also proven to be an effective way to create awareness and increase the support to Fair Trade. The recent International Fair Trade Towns Campaign “Bristol Declaration”[2] is an example of how the experience of local and regional authorities to engage in Fair Trade can be catalysed in favour of the new goals’ implementation.

Yet despite these interesting prospects, we also have concerns. Goal 17 seems to enshrine trade liberalisation as the golden solution. Trade is not presented as a strategy for the improvement of livelihoods, but rather as an end in itself. Together with many civil society partners, the FTAO co-founded the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance, which calls on governments to put the people and planet at the heart of their trade policies. We need to make sure that trade rules and practices do not negatively impact on people’s perspectives for sustainable livelihoods. We also need more transparent and fair supply chains, as well as minimum social and environmental standards to be implemented and controlled. Governments should also promote the uptake of Fair Trade practices by implementing enabling public policy environments in support of Fair Trade.

Overall, we welcome the new set of goals, and we will contribute to make sure that the means and partnerships to achieve them will meet the challenges of promoting sustainable livelihoods within the planetary boundaries.

“We call on world governments to seize this opportunity of the implementation of the new goals to strengthen their cooperation with the Fair Trade movement at all levels.” stated Sergi Corbalán.


Background information

The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) speaks out for Fair Trade and Trade Justice with the aim to improve the livelihoods of marginalised producers and workers in the South. The FTAO is a joint initiative of Fairtrade International, the World Fair Trade Organization-Global and the World Fair Trade Organization-Europe. More information under:

Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. Since its beginning, the Fair Trade movement has been contributing to sustainable development by offering better conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers, as well as environmental protection. It has been working for a sustainable world where people can escape poverty and enjoy decent work without harming the earth’s essential ecosystems and resources; where women and girls are afforded equal rights and equal opportunities. The vision of the Fair Trade movement is ‘a world in which justice and sustainable development are at the heart of trade structures and practices so that everyone, through their work, can maintain a descent and dignified livelihood and develop their full human potential’.


[1]A seat at the table? Ensuring Smallholder farmers are heard in Public-private partnerships. Fairtrade Foundation, September 2015. Available from:

[2] Bristol Resolution “Take action in your Fair Trade Town”. Available from:

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