Fairtrade products still sought by customers despite cost of living crisis

‘It is encouraging that shoppers are staying committed to sustainability values even during hard times, to support farmers and workers getting a fair income’

Shoppers around the world continue to support the Fairtrade brand, new figures from GlobeScan and Fairtrade International reveal.

The research found that three in five (56%) shoppers surveyed in 12 countries said they were willing to pay more for a Fairtrade product, despite the increased cost of living. The consumer research was conducted in January and February 2023 in 11 countries: Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA. A separate survey was also conducted in India in August and September 2022, which brought the total number of participants to 11,217.

The Fairtrade network includes more than 1,800 producer organisations, mostly set up as co-operatives.

Fairtrade welcomed the findings while warning that small-scale farmers face increased fuel, transport and fertiliser costs, which puts their livelihoods further at risk.

“It is encouraging that shoppers are staying committed to sustainability values even during hard times, to support farmers and workers getting a fair income,” said Sandra Uwera, global CEO of Fairtrade International. “The global cost of living crisis is squeezing both consumers and producers, but this survey shows that many people still put ethical considerations high on the list when they go shopping.”

According to the study, 44% of consumers buy at least one Fairtrade product per month, up three percentage points from 2021.

The research also revealed that trust in Fairtrade remains high, with over 70% of those surveyed recognised the Fairtrade label, and of those, 86% said they trusted it – including three-quarters of generation Z, millennials and generation X. “Fairtrade remains the most visible and trusted ethical label globally,” added Uwera. “The majority of consumers told us they prefer to buy Fairtrade products over other labels.”

Another finding was that younger consumers (25-34) were the most likely to be willing pay more than regular price for Fairtrade products despite the increased cost of living. Surveyed shoppers also associated Fairtrade with decent working conditions, protecting farmers’ and workers’ rights, and tackling poverty. More than one in five shoppers (22%) said they associated Fairtrade with support for farmers to reduce the impact of climate change, reduce the impact of farming on the environment, and protect against deforestation.

Around 75% of those taking part in the survey, including four out of five parents, said the Fairtrade label makes it easy for them to decide if a product is ethically and responsibly produced.

And 79% said they have a positive impression of a brand when the Fairtrade label is present, while 43% said their view of a brand would be negatively impacted if it stopped carrying the label.

“Despite the impacts of inflation on the average consumer (six in ten people across the world say they have been ‘greatly affected’ by cost of living), our research shows increasing concern about climate change and poverty,” said Caroline Holme, senior director at GlobeScan. “According to GlobeScan’s annual Healthy & Sustainable Living study, people want to have those big concerns reflected in the products they buy. And certifications such as Fairtrade continue to be critical to help consumers shop with their values.”

In addition to assessing people’s views on Fairtrade, the survey also explored who consumers believe is most responsible for protecting human and environmental rights. 

Thirty-one percent of respondents said that governments were the most responsible for protecting human rights, followed by international bodies such as the UN or European Union (21%). In terms of environmental protection, consumers again said national governments were the most responsible (25%), with large companies and individuals a close second (19% each). 

“Farmers and agricultural workers are facing multiple crises, including spiralling inflation, lower real wages and the effects of climate change – while consumers around the world are also facing great uncertainty,” said Uwera. “These findings send a clear message that shoppers still want fair and sustainable options, and suggest that they see no short cut to a more sustainable future.”

This article has been amended to include information about the survey participants.