We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Fair Trade Cotton?

By Jillian O Keeffe
Updated Feb 27, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Fair trade is a method of ensuring that farmers and organizations get a reasonable price for their product and that workers earn a reasonable wage and have decent working conditions. The system works by giving producers and middlemen a certification mark after they pass an inspection by fair trade officials. A consumer can recognize this mark in the shop and be assured that the item was produced to a certain standard. The fair trade system covers a wide range of food and nonfood items, including cotton.

To get fair trade cotton certification, farmers need to ensure the workers are paid reasonably, have good health and safety standards, have the right to belong to a union, and have adequate accommodation if required. A farmer must also monitor and improve the impact of the farming process on the environment if necessary, not use genetically modified organisms, and handle chemicals safely. A cooperative of many farms needs to have a democratic management system. A company called FLO-CERT, which is a branch of Fairtrade International, checks these standards before awarding the fair trade certification.

More than 70 countries grow cotton, and about 100 million households earn money from the plant. The market price for cotton is affected by the popularity of synthetic fabrics and by the fact that certain countries such as the United States subsidize cotton producers so their cotton is sometimes sold at below production cost. This means that cotton from other countries needs to be sold at lower prices, which sometimes does not cover the cost of production.

Developing countries can produce cotton cheaply as wages are low. The pressures of very cheap competing cotton from subsidized farmers and the generally low price of the fiber can also mean that farmers may earn very little from the harvest and may even lose money. Fair trade cotton producers are guaranteed a reasonable price from buyers as long as they stick to the standards set by the fair trade organization. As well as the guaranteed price, farmers receive a Fairtrade premium, which is used to improve the community's living, education, or business conditions.

Fair trade cotton can be bought and sold directly to the public by fair trade organizations. Regular clothing producers can also buy the cotton and make clothes for shops that do not specialize in fair trade products. Fair trade cotton that is also organic commands a higher price than regular fair trade cotton.

The higher prices paid to farmers, workers, and trade organizations for fair trade cotton can make fair trade clothing more expensive, but it also ensures that people involved in cotton production earn more than they otherwise would. Workers can use the extra money for housing, food, or education. Farmers can also expand their businesses to make more profit while at the same time respecting the environment and worker's rights.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By ZipLine — On Jun 16, 2014

Most people I know wouldn't mind paying a little extra for their cotton clothes and towels, knowing that the money is going to a good place. I'm going to urge everyone I know to buy fair trade cotton products.

By discographer — On Jun 15, 2014

When FLO-CERT inspects production and worker conditions in a country, do they send their own experts or do they send local employees?

Considering that some of the countries where these goods are produced suffer from corruption, I think it's important for experts to do the inspection. I personally would not trust locals to do it in case the certification is approved when it shouldn't be.

I'm not saying that this happens, I'm just saying that precautions should be taken because the fair trade project is a great project that needs to continue and expand.

By burcinc — On Jun 15, 2014

Fair trade certification is one of the best things to come about considering the growing injustices that workers and farmers in developing countries are faced with.

I, for one, make sure that if there is a fair trade certified alternative for a product, I buy that. It started out with coffee for me. I had read about how coffee farmers in Africa were paid mere pennies for a pound of coffee beans where those same coffee beans were sold $15 or more per pound in the US. I have been buying fair trade coffee ever since.

Cotton is another popular crop in developing countries, and just like coffee and many other products, this too should be bought fair trade when possible. Otherwise, those farmers do all the work but the corporations make all of the money.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.