Fair Trade: A model that also promotes equality between women and men?

08 July 2021

Representatives from the two leading global fair trade networks explain why their business model is also characterized by better gender balance.

The fair trade business model empowers producers and promotes fairer trading practices and conditions.

But it’s also characterized by more balanced gender outcomes, such as more equal opportunities for women and men to participate in trade or a higher proportion of women in leadership positions, compared with traditional business models.

For example, the executive boards of the two leading global fair trade networks – FairTrade International and the World Fair Trade Organization – are composed of 50% women, while in traditional businesses the percentage of senior management positions held by women is only 29% globally, according to the Women in Business 2021 report.

"The fair trade business model results are all the more impressive because they’re obtained without imposing gender quotas," UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant says.

Several questions arise, including:

  • What is the key to fair trade’s balanced representation and participation of women and men?
  • Does this model seem to be transferable to other sectors, especially the private sector?

Such questions are at the heart of the July edition of UNCTAD's "8 Until We're There" initiative.

In an interview with Alexandre Carette of UN News, Caroline Torre, a World Fair Trade Organization membership and monitoring officer, and Ténéna Amidou Coulibaly, Program Officer of Fairtrade Africa, discusses the gender equality secret of the fair trade business model and the lessons that can be learned.

Fairtrade Africa brings together Fairtrade International certified producer organizations on the continent. The World Fair Trade Organization is a network of fair trade businesses that includes more than 400 social enterprises whose innovative business models are focused more on their social missions than on maximizing profits.