We’re all familiar with the Fairtrade logo, certifying that producers in developing countries have been paid a living wage. But what about things that don’t have a Fairtrade logo? Presumably those are all ‘Unfairtrade’ products.

Why do we get to shout when we treat people decently, and keep silent when we treat them badly? How come we get to feel virtuous about buying Fairtrade, but don’t ask questions of everything else?

To make sure consumers have all the information, Make Wealth History is proud to present the Unfairtrade logo. We expect to see it rolled out on products across the country very soon, as we write and invite companies to participate.

We invited Starbucks to adopt it, but they declined. Paul wrote to a bunch of others, and his collection of replies is here and here.

In the meantime, join our group on Facebook, and spread the word about this big consumer oversight.

Or order some stickers, and start the re-labelling yourself.

Unfairtrade FAQ:

  • Should things really be labelled unfairtrade?
    Why not? Fairtrade is a simple certification – it just says that the producers were paid a fair wage. It doesn’t promise anything more than what people have been owed all along. If a fair wage hasn’t been paid to the producers, the product should have an unfairtrade logo, so we all make an educated decision.
  • How big is the problem?
    Vast. If unfairly traded products were made illegal tomorrow, we’d all be starving by monday, and the economy would collapse shortly afterwards. We’re not just talking about coffee and bananas here. We’re talking about everything from Chinese sweatshop toys and clothes, to African cotton pickers, to UK farmers being driven out of business by supermarket price squeezes.
  • What is the unfairtrade campaign going to do?
    Very little probably, but you never know. We’ve started where Fairtrade started, with coffee. We’ve written to Starbucks and suggested they adopt the logo on their non-fairtrade items. We’ll write to other cafe chains soon, and take it from there.
  • How can I help?
    Glad you asked. We want to spread the word about this little idea, so join the Facebook group if you’re on it, and invite your friends. You can write to Starbucks too if you like, or pick on someone else.  You can raise the issue with your friends and family. And you can buy fairtrade whenever possible.
  • Should I be boycotting unfairtraders, like Starbucks?
    If you like Starbucks, don’t boycott them on our behalf. Just make sure that every time you buy a coffee, specify what you’d like. As in ‘I’d like an unfairtrade cappucino please’.
  • Are you serious?
    In the point we think the logo makes, absolutely. With the name, the logo, and the idea that companies might actually adopt it, we hope people can see our satirical intent.


  1. May I ask what is necessary for a producer to enter the FairTrade scheme? I presume it involves money and manegerial skills. You’re campaign aims less demand for “unfairtrade” products, thus increasing the gap between demand/supply, resulting in lower prices for the products produced by the ones uncapable of paying the price or manage such a scheme (i.e. using the traditional market scheme). Aren’t those the poorest, the one’s in most need for a living wage?
    Isn’t FairTrade a subsidy in it’s nature? Aren’t the subsidies the main cause of excess production (=lower price)?

    Despite being a FairTrade supporter, I try to keep aware of some of the difficult questions to it.

  2. You’ll have to contact the Fairtrade Foundation for details on how to get certified.

    And yes, we’re well aware of the shortcomings of the Fairtrade movement.

  3. How about a sticker campaign, whereby persons can print off some tiny labels, the ones you have designed, and then stick them on things as they shop or as they wander ’round high streets?

    It would not be criminal damage if sticker was easy to remove, and would alert the next buyer…

  4. Fabnper:
    “Isn’t FairTrade a subsidy in it’s nature? Aren’t the subsidies the main cause of excess production (=lower price)?”

    According to neoliberal economic theory, yes. But according to neoliberal economic theory sub-Saharen Africa should have done brilliantly over the last 30 years- its nearly been run by the IMF. Could something be wrong?

    Neoliberals have a picture of the world in which producers engage directly with consumers. That leaves out the middle men- the companies who buy from the producers and sell to consumers and scoop off most of the value. Fair trade acts like a miniumum wage, it prevents companies exploiting their producers. According to neoliberal theory, there is no such thing as exploitation because the market is a god-like being that gives to all what they should rightly have.

    The neoliberals assert this dogma about fair trade lowering producer prices for non-fair trade producers, but they are unable to provide any evidence to support it because there isn’t any. In general the opposite has happened- prices paid to producers tend to go up in non-fair trade enterprises in the area as well, as pressure is exerted to pay a decent wage.

  5. Don’t be fooled, I don’t believe Fairtrade is fair. Please read the Adam Smith Report (2008) on how unfair fairtrade can be.

    1. I’m aware of some of the complications around Fairtrade, and I’ve read the Unfair Trade report from the Adam Smith Institute. I disagree with its basic premise that Fairtrade is not in fact fair, but it makes some good points that I hope the movement considers carefully. It also makes some entirely unfounded points, motivated more by free market ideology than evidence.

      Fairtrade is not a silver bullet, and is in some ways a rather inadequate response to labour exploitation in developing countries. Ultimately I think it’s a temporary measure, in place to give a better deal for poor farmers until they’re in a situation to bargain for themselves. Perhaps if the Doha round had succeeded, fairtrade wouldn’t be necessary. Unfortunately everyone’s still out to protect their own interests, and the poorest are the ones who suffer from that.

  6. dearest justin,

    your post on Fair Trade stands out among the rest ive seen online!
    ive already done the first step by joining your Facebook page.
    we would be so honoured to interview you for a piece that we are writing on Fair Trade.

    love and light.

  7. Love this idea! Brilliant. I’ve always thought it’s very sad that Fairtrade products are a niche ethical item when it’s such a basic premise. It’s not ‘generous’ to pay a living wage, it should be a given. I hope I get to see a day when Fairtrade logo is obsolete!

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