Upscaling Fair Trade


The UN 2030 Agenda calls for a dialogue between Local Authorities, Civil Society Organisations and different actors involved in global value chains to promote a growth which is sustainable and inclusive. Within this transformational vision, the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) assigns a key role to local actors such as Local Authorities.

Local actions and policies have a global impact, which is why more and more municipalities are acknowledging their global responsibility and getting involved in policies and initiatives that aim to raise awareness and promote sustainable consumption and production patterns. Local Authorities can act as pioneers in the development and implementation of innovative ways of promoting sustainable development, such as local Fair Trade projects aiming to engage the private sector and/ or the general public.

Local Authorities have always played an important role in the Fair Trade Movement. In the past two decades, however, their commitment has scaled up and has been strengthened through the Fair Trade Towns Campaign, which currently includes more than 2000 Local Authorities in around 30 countries across the World.

Scaling Up is one of the six stages that lead to innovative ideas for creating systemic change (Young Foundation, 2010). The FTAO believes that Local Authorities can be key actors in processes of social innovation that ultimately lead to systemic change.


In 2018, we carried out research to identify the current challenges and opportunities for LAs to adopt resolutions on fair procurement, support local Fair Trade projects, cooperate with Fair Trade actors, perform information and education work on Fair Trade, as well as to support or implement any other local Fair Trade initiatives. We analysed the European environment and identified tools that can boost Local Authorities’ commitment, such as the EU Public Procurement Directive or the new European Consensus on Development and the EU Trade Strategy.

We identified some barriers and challenges to the upscaling of Fair Trade at the local level, which vary according to the size of the town or city or to the geographical location of the Local Authority. For example, if big cities can find it difficult to engage citizens in their Fair Trade projects, small towns can find it harder to have the human and financial resources to manage the initiatives. As for the geographical location, if in Eastern Europe it can be challenging to tackle the low level of awareness of citizens and businesses have of Fair Trade, in the North of Europe, where the Fair Trade Town campaign is more advanced, there is the need to provide Fair Trade supporters with new challenges on how to further promote Fair Trade at local level.

Nonetheless, we have also found that several innovative local solutions are already in place. These innovative approaches that tie together Local Authorities and Fair Trade actors span across four main areas: public procurement, development cooperation, trade and Fair Trade specific initiatives. They are all extensively discussed in the research.

Partnerships with Local Authorities are part of the larger effort of  Fair Trade actors to enable social innovation and to scale up the movement. You can find more information about these strategies on the page about our work on public procurement and on the Fair Trade Towns website


From local to EU level: Scaling Up Fair Trade in Europe, FTAO (2019)

Report on fair and ethical trade practices in EU cities, ITC (2019)

Localising the SDGs, FTAO (2016)

The open book of social innovation, Young Foundation (2010)

You can find out how this work links to our work on EU policies here.