Purchasing products that are fair trade certified can reduce poverty, encourage environmentally friendly production methods and safeguard humane working conditions. Simply look for the fair trade label on products such as coffee, chocolate or clothing.

The fair trade label means an organization such as Fair Trade USA has certified that farmers and other producers adhere to fair trade standards. The organization audits the product's supply chain to ensure fair trade prices have been paid. The importer and the processor pay the costs of acquiring a license, which begins the process.

Photo credit: globalpovertyproject.com

Here's five reasons why buying certified fair trade is important:

1. "Fair trade makes free trade work for the world’s poor," said Paul Rice, Fair Trade USA’s founder, president and CEO. Free trade leaves small-scale producers behind when large subsidized companies start to take over their industries. Large contracted farms can afford to sell commodities at lower prices but local farmers, who have traditionally supplied these products, are driven into debt. The only way these farmers can compete with subsidized farms is to lower their product prices to the point where labor is free and quality of life is unsustainable.

2. Products certified as fair trade ensure equitable trade practices at every level of the supply chain. This entails a high level of transparency and traceability in global supply chains. Democratically organized farming groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price (or the market price if it’s higher) and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farming organizations also are eligible for pre-harvest credit.

3. The fair trade license fees generate funds, which are given to the fair trade communities. This money is specifically designated for social, economic and environmental development projects such as scholarships, schools, quality improvement and leadership training and organic certification. Each community determines how their funds will be used through democratic systems.

4. Workers on fair trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions and sustainable wages. Forced child and slave labor are strictly prohibited.

5. Fair trade certified products are free of genetically engineered ingredients, and must be produced with limited amounts of pesticides and fertilizers and proper management of waste, water and energy.

This video from Fair Trade USA explains why every purchase matters.