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Countersourcing: Frequently Asked Questions » Countersourcing

Frequently Asked Questions


We know you’ll have some questions. We’ve answered the most common ones below…

Fair Trade Questions

Fair Trade is an alternative approach to conventional international trade. It guarantees that worker cooperatives / producers will receive fair and just prices for their products and in addition a Fair Trade Premium which directly benefits the workers who produced the products. Fair Trade certification is awarded by The Fair Trade Labelling Organization (FLO), based in Bonn, Germany. Anyone awarded Fair Trade certification can use the independent Fair Trade Mark on their goods. Fair Trade Standards per product are developed by country initiatives such as TransfairUSA, with the stakeholders, in collaboration with FLO. Counter Sourcing is assisting this effort for Fair Trade Apparel production standards.

There are a number of different ways to interpret what is fair. However, it stands to reason that the people who grow the coffee or tea you drink, grow the cotton that goes into your clothing or cut and sew the clothes you put on in the morning should not be condemned to live in poverty for their efforts. The Fair Trade Model is not limited solely to beverages or agricultural commodities. It can and is used for food, clothing and crafts. Counter Sourcing not only provides fairly traded products, we also offer a fair price to you the consumer. By cutting out many of the middlemen, Counter Sourcing pays the producers and workers more and gives you a better value.

Fair Trade started with individual companies called ATOs (Alternative Trade Organizations) who made a commitment to work directly with indigenous peoples and to market their products directly to end consumers. By cutting out middlemen, ATOs have been able to pay producers substantially more while offering a competitive product.

Later, organizations like IFAT (International Federation of Alternative Trade) were formed to communicate ideas about Fair Trade. And with the introduction of Fair Trade certification organizations like TransFair USA, products from around the world started to be certified as fairly traded. In an endeavor to place a world standard on what is fair, these labeling organizations came together and formed FLO (Fairtrade Labelling Organizations).

Fair Trade provides the means for producers or small farmers to make enough money to support themselves while using the premiums to improve their standard of living.

The easiest way to support Fair Trade is to purchase fairly traded products. Your actions as a consumer support or discourage actions by businesses. By making the choice to buy fairly traded products you help provide health care, education and a better lifestyle for farmers, workers, and artisans around the world. Look for products produced by Counter Sourcing or other Fair Trade vendors and join millions of other socially conscious consumers across the United States in becoming a “fair trader.”

Joe served for two years as one of the twelve members of Fair Trade USA’s Multi-Stakeholder Group (MSG) assessing a pilot project for Fair Trade Certified Apparel for the US marketplace. For more information, please see Fair Trade USA’s press release and MSG’s report.

Press Release:


Fair Trade involves the following general principles, to which Counter Sourcing adheres:

    1. Producers receive a fair price, with a Living Wage for all workers as the end goal
    2. Forced labor and exploitative child labor are not allowed
    3. Buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships
    4. Producers have access to financial and technical assistance
    5. Sustainable production techniques are encouraged
    6. Working conditions are healthy and safe
    7. Equal employment opportunities are provided for all
    8. All aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability

The following excerpt from the USAS fall 2005 campaign materials explaining the USAS Designated Supplier Program:


University logo apparel goods will be sourced from a set of designated supplier factories that have been determined by universities to have affirmatively demonstrated full and consistent respect for the rights of their employees. In addition to respect for the standards currently embodied in university codes of conduct, these factories will also be required to meet two additional standards: demonstrable respect for rights of association – as evidenced by the presence of a legitimate, representative union or other representative employee body – and the payment of a livable wage. University licensees will pay these factories prices for their products sufficient to allow factories to achieve these standards, prices which will represent modest increases over industry norms, and will be expected to maintain the kind of long-term relationships with these factories necessary to allow for a reasonable degree of financial stability and job security. These factories will produce primarily or exclusively for the university logo goods market.

Sourcing Requirement and Workplace Standards

The purpose of this proposal is to ensure to an extent not possible through current codes of conduct and code of conduct enforcement strategies that university logo apparel products are not made under sweatshop conditions. Upon implementation of the Designated Suppliers Program, licensees will be required to source most of their university apparel logo goods from factories that have been designated by the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). In order to qualify as a designated university supplier, a factory will be required to meet the following criteria:

      1. The factory must demonstrate full compliance with internationally recognized labor standards, as embodied in university codes of conduct
      2. The factory’s employees must be represented by a legitimate, representative labor union or other representative employee body
      3. The factory must demonstrate that its employees are paid a living wage, once it is receiving prices for its products sufficient to make this feasible
      4. The factory must produce primarily or exclusively for the university logo goods market, or for other buyers committed to equivalent standards (including payment of a living wage)

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