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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an action plan developed by the 193 United Nations countries to respond to the serious problems facing global society and build a just, equitable and environmentally harmonious society. The SDGs are part of Agenda 2030, a resolution called “Transforming our world”. Therefore, the ultimate goal is to change our reality by implementing the necessary reforms to solve pressing problems such as climate change or poverty.

It is a very ambitious work plan, as it addresses all global problems in both economic, environmental and social fields. It is structured into 17 SDGs, which in turn establish 69 specific targets. It has thus become the largest international commitment in history; an unprecedented initiative because, sadly, the unsustainability situation in which our Planet lives also has no precedents. If you want to know more about them in detail, we invite you to visit the United Nations or UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) websites through these QR codes.



The SDGs aim to change the world in five major dimensions; the well-being of society (People), the economy (Prosperity), the environment (Planet), the end of wars, violence and corruption (Peace) and the creation of a global alliance to achieve goals (Partnerships). This has been called the “5P Strategy” because all dimensions begin with that letter in their English denomination (People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace, Partnership)
. On the following pages you will see in graphics the SDGs related to each dimension.

This 5P model is an evolution of the classic sustainability model, which was summarized in three dimensions: social, economic and environmental, and used to be summarized as the 3P Strategy (from its initials in English: People, Profit, Planet)
. Therefore, Agenda 2030 proposes a more comprehensive Sustainable Development model by adding issues related to peace and alliances
. These five pillars are considered essential foundations for a society to be sustainable: because there can be no sustainability when there is poverty, when Human Rights are not respected, when there are wars or when the ecosystem is threatened; and because problems are so complex that we need to work collaboratively. Therefore, all five foundations are necessary to achieve Sustainable Development and they are all equally important, although some are linked to more or fewer SDGs.


To achieve this goal, we must all contribute; not only national governments but also regional and local governments, companies, NGOs, universities, schools, media… and citizens as a whole. That is to say, you and I must also contribute to the SDGs. There are many ways to do this and buying Fair Trade products is undoubtedly one of the best ways. In this chapter we will tell you about the relationship between Fair Trade and SDGs and which SDGs you will be contributing to when you consume this type of product.


Com contribueix el Comerç Just a complir els ODS?

Economic activity has a strong impact on people’s well-being and environmental balance; therefore issues related to product manufacturing, food cultivation, distribution and sales are present in many of the SDGs. These issues not only refer to economic or technical factors but also human factors (e.g., labor rights) and environmental factors (such as waste generation and treatment). Therefore Fair Trade is a type of activity that contributes directly and extensively to almost all SDGs of Agenda 2030.

Let’s take a closer look at this contribution. To do so we will review the five major dimensions of change proposed by Agenda 2030 (People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace and Partnerships), as well as the International Fair Trade Principles4. These are ten criteria established by the World Fair Trade Organization that must be met by organizations working in Fair Trade both as producers and buyers.


1.            Dimensió de Persones

This dimension includes SDGs 1 through 5 which as you can see in the box are related to solving hunger and poverty problems promoting sustainable agriculture and protecting health rights education rights gender equality worldwide.

The People dimension connects with the same essence of Fair Trade because what characterizes this production and consumption model is precisely putting people at its center. Under its philosophy trade is not merely a commercial activity aimed at producing maximum profits but it is considered as it has been throughout history an activity aimed at producing goods that meet people’s needs who buy them while at the same time allowing for a decent life for those who produce them. And all this in harmony with nature.

Fair Trade Principle No. 1 establishes as its primary objective “the creation of opportunities for producers with economic disadvantages”.

As you can see, Principle No. 1 and SDG 1 go hand in hand, and so, every time you consume a Fair Trade product you will be contributing to it.

On the other hand, a large part of the cooperatives that work in Fair Trade are dedicated to agricultural or livestock production, and they also tend to work maintaining traditional techniques that respect the environment, which contributes directly to different goals included in SDG 2, such as ending hunger and malnutrition, ensuring food security, increasing agricultural productivity and income of small-scale food producers, maintaining genetic diversity of plants and farm animals, and promoting sustainable agriculture and livestock.

The commitment to non-discrimination and gender equality, which is reflected in SDG 5, is another basic criterion of Fair Trade (reflected in its Principle No. 6). This principle states that no person can be discriminated against in “hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement on grounds of race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership (union affiliation), political affiliation, HIV / AIDS status or age”. Women have a great role in Fair Trade, as their participation and leadership are encouraged, and special measures are foreseen to ensure their safety and health, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

A particularly noteworthy aspect of Fair Trade is that its approach to generating well-being has a long reach and is future-oriented. In this way, it does not only intend to create jobs, which in itself would already be valuable. Beyond that, it aspires to facilitate the creation of small businesses, agricultural or artisan cooperatives that can consolidate and guarantee employment for their members not only in the short term but also in the medium and long term.

That is, sustained and sustainable employment. This gives autonomy, empowerment and economic stability to all the families belonging to the cooperatives.

In addition, not only do the people who work in the producing companies or cooperatives benefit, but a part of the profits from their economic activity is allocated to collective community projects, which allows not only improving the general economic situation, but also education, health, public services, etc.

  1. Prosperity Dimension. The Prosperity dimension encompasses the SDGs most related to economic activities.

Here is an important nuance that we would like to stop on. As we commented in the previous section, for decades it was considered that Sustainable Development had three major dimensions (social, economic and environmental) and the economic dimension was summarized under the word “Profit”. However, Agenda 2030 introduces a small but significant change, replacing this word with "Prosperity"In a truly sustainable society, the economy cannot be understood as an activity that pursues only profit generation, because radical economicist approaches are at the root of the current situation of unsustainability. Instead, the economy must be addressed as a human activity aimed at generating and equitably distributing wealth to ensure the well-being of all people. This represents a new perspective of the UN and the international community regarding the economy, but it is precisely what Fair Trade has always defended.

Fair Trade establishes rules regarding the production and distribution of goods that must be respected by all entities, and that are collected in the International Principles No. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. All of them are based on ethical principles, such as justice, solidarity and cooperation. Among them, we would like to highlight that prices are set ensuring that all workers will receive a decent wage, in which there are no variations depending on market fluctuations, or any type of wage discrimination; safe and healthy workplaces are provided, and the exercise of labor rights is guaranteed; child labor is prevented; payment conditions are transparent and fair for producers; commitments and agreed schedules are strictly respected and cooperation between the parties and between producing companies or communities is promoted, avoiding unfair competition.

Therefore, by consuming these products, we are all helping to fulfill SDGs 8, 9, 10 and 12. On the other hand, we facilitate goal 4 of SDG 11, as many of the Fair Trade products are made based on designs and / or with artisan techniques, and thus their cultural identity is promoted and protected. To support the good functioning of the cooperatives, training in production, management and marketing skills of the teams is reinforced, also contributing to SDG 4. And the fact that children cannot be forced to work not only prevents the violation of their rights in the labor field, but also facilitates their access to education, again reinforcing SDG 4.

In general, decent work enables families to build a dignified life, with full access to their rights, which in turn affects the fulfillment of all the SDGs of the People dimension.


3.            Planet Dimension 

Respect for the environment is reflected in Principle 10 of Fair Trade. This is carried out in various ways. First, the use of raw materials that cause the least environmental impact is prioritized; for example, obtained with traditional systems, or mechanized, but with sustainable management, purchased in the local environment, or even with recycled materials. Those sustainable raw materials are worked using production technologies with minimal energy consumption and / or using renewable energies, so that the carbon footprint is reduced as much as possible. And at the same time, waste generation is minimized, which is always managed in a sustainable way. In the case of agricultural production, traditional or sustainable methods are also used, as well as organic pesticides or other additives.

Thanks to all these measures, Fair Trade is facilitating the fulfillment of the five SDGs included in the Planet dimension.


4.            Peace Dimension

This dimension of Sustainable Development is reflected in SDG 16, perhaps one of the least known, but undoubtedly one of the most important. With this SDG, the aim is to end all forms of violence and abuse; guarantee democracy in all countries; respect for all rights and access to justice for all people; reduce illicit trade, corruption and bribery; and ensure that all institutions and organizations are transparent and make decisions in an inclusive way. And also to this dimension and this SDG contributes Fair Trade. As established by its International Principle No. 2, organizations that work under this system must be transparent, must respect all Stakeholders and be managed in a participatory way1. In a cooperative or company that works in Fair Trade, workers actively participate in the management of the business and decisions are made collectively. This transparency is also offered to consumers and society as a whole, as Fair Trade entities disseminate transparent information not only about products, but also about processes and the impact of their work2For all these reasons, these entities are examples of democratic companies, managed based on ethical values and aligned with the SDGs


5.            Alliance Dimension

The Alliance dimension is also associated with a single SDG, but it is just as important as the rest of the pillars. SDG 17 aims to generate a great global alliance to fulfill the entire 2030 Agenda and thus achieve Sustainable Development. The challenge of “transforming our world” and reversing unsustainability is so great and complex that we can only achieve it if we replace the “competition”, so characteristic of our contemporary society, with “cooperation”. This cooperation must take place on a large scale, between countries, and ensuring that countries in poverty have more prominence in global society. But we must also work collaboratively on a small scale, through alliances, and networks of work between local governments, companies, NGOs and citizens.

One of the sections of SDG 17 includes specific goals to create a new “universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable” international trade system (Goal 17.10). And this is precisely what Fair Trade does. Other goals that we contribute to when we consume Fair Trade are 17.11. and 17.2. which aim to facilitate access of products from developing countries to all markets, increasing the volume of exports.

In the following image you can see a summary of how the 2030 Agenda is related to the 10 International Principles of Fair Trade; in this way, you will see how you contribute to the SDGs every time you consume a Fair Trade product. The image reflects direct contribution, but remember that, in addition, Fair Trade generates many indirect impacts on the entire Agenda