Why your business should invest in fair trade practices

The pandemic has overtaken the global economy at rapid speed. While everyone has been affected, developing countries have been made especially vulnerable. Their workers are among the most exposed to the virus, with far fewer resources to combat its impact. Not only have many lost their sole source of income, they also lack the economic support and social assistance that developed countries benefit from.

Far from being an “equalizer”, the pandemic has magnified and exacerbated global inequality. As businesses look to recover, it’s vital their approach is both sustainable and people centred. This is an opportunity to establish better, fairer ways of working and contribute towards building a more resilient, inclusive, and caring global economy.

By investing in fair trade practices, businesses can better serve both people and the planet, while still making a profit. Becoming fair trade means championing responsible production, improving supply chain visibility, and protecting worker’s rights. It also brings the added bonus of improved brand reputation: a recent study found that almost 80% of consumers are changing their purchase preferences and behaviour based on a company’s social responsibility, inclusiveness, or environmental impact.

Standards can help businesses exercise fair trade practices that contribute towards sustainable development and have a positive impact on humanity and the environment.

An organization’s relationship to the society and wider environment in which it exists and operates is a key factor in its ability to succeed and thrive. BS EN ISO 26000 lets corporations effectively assess and address their social responsibilities. The voluntary standard offers actionable advice and recommendations, including examples, for practicing socially responsible behaviour.

BS EN ISO 26000 invites organizations to hold themselves accountable for the impact of their operations, respecting cultural, societal, environmental, and legal differences and economic development conditions. At the same time, it provides them freedom to work in a way that does not restrict their ability to function on a business level.

What’s more, it offers 450 recommendations related to the UN’s SDGs, addressing seven core areas of social responsibility:

  • Organizational governance
  • Human rights
  • Labour practices
  • The environment
  • Fair operating practices
  • Consumer issues
  • Community involvement and development.

To further align fair trade practices and strategies with the SDGs, businesses can use environmental management standard BS EN ISO 14004. It provides practical guidance that covers issues such as how to protect the environment from harm and degradation, achieving sustainable resource use, and implementing sustainable practices that increase productivity and reduce waste. BS 8001 on circular economy principles might also be of interest here.


Beyond this, a fair-trade business requires ethical leadership. Management must prioritize the wellbeing and safety of workers in all regions, especially with ongoing risks related to the pandemic. BS ISO 45001 lets business leaders establish, implement and maintain a health and safety policy that protects workers at all levels, wherever they are in the world. More specific guidance can be found in BSI’s recent safe working guidelines that through the agile standardization process became the international standard PD ISO/PAS 45005:2020 .

It’s vital to extend this level of consideration across the whole value chain. BS ISO 20400 provides guidelines for integrating sustainability into an organization’s procurement policy strategy and process, ensuring that an organization’s suppliers have fair labour and business practices.

The standard defines the principles of sustainable procurement such as accountability, transparency, respect for human rights and ethical behaviour. Implementation has the potential to improve both business operations and the lives of workers in the communities where they are situated. By ensuring their supply chain meets ethical and social standards, companies can also win the trust of customers and external stakeholders.

Finally, there is an urgent need for all businesses to join global efforts towards actions that will reduce carbon emissions and build climate resilience. BS EN ISO 14090 pushes organizations to consider climate change adaptation when designing and implementing policies, strategies, plans and activities. The standard also helps brands to report on their activity in a demonstrable way, helping them to meet SDG goals on climate action and position themselves as business leaders of the future.

In addition to the above standardization, businesses can also join the official Fairtrade movement. Fairtrade is the most recognized ethical label in the world: eight in ten consumers saying the mark has a positive impact on their perception of brands. By joining Fairtrade, organizations can further tackle exploitative labour and the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources.

The lessons of the past few months have taught businesses everywhere that they’re all in this together. Now is an opportunity to rebuild, prioritizing the fair-trade practices that will lead to a more sustainable and ethical world for future generations.