How to Choose Fair Trade Furnishings

Design and decorate—all while doing good for others

By Jan Soults Walker

Beautify rooms with products imported under the auspices of fair trade principles and you are helping craftspeople in developing countries thrive.

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What Is Fair Trade?

Homey Transitional Living Room by Deborah French - HomePortfolio
Deborah French

"Fair trade seeks to preserve the artistic traditions and techniques of craftspeople in developing countries while helping them earn a sustainable living and improve their quality of life," say Renee Bowers, executive director of the Fair Trade Federation. "Consumers should seek fair trade furnishings because they are both beautiful and sustainable. Most importantly, buying fair trade allows consumers to have a direct and positive impact on artisan communities around the world." 

Members of the Fair Trade Federation, for example, must undergo a rigorous screening process to ensure that they are committed to all nine of the organization's Fair Trade Principles. The principles include developing transparent and accountable relationships with the craftspeople, paying them fairly and promptly, working with them to ensure environmental stewardship, and promoting safe working conditions.

How to Shop for "Fair" Furnishings

"Ask companies if they are members of the Fair Trade Federation or look for the logo," Bowers says, "to ensure that the companies you are buying from are dedicated to fair trade practices." Additionally, you can look for other logos, such as the World Fair Trade Organization, to ensure you are purchasing only fair trade furnishings.

Because fair trade furnishings are handcrafted, rather than mass-produced, you may need to go the extra mile to find the perfect furnishings for your rooms. A great place to start is the Fair Trade Federation website, where consumers can search for retail stores in their area or online. Visit and click "Find Products and Members" to get started.

Fair Trade Online Retailers

You can also shop for fair trade furnishings through these websites:

Mandala Throw
Bholu Mandala Throw

Ten Thousand Villages: Handmade gifts, jewelry, home decor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware, and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. "One of the world's largest fair trade organizations and a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization, the company strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries."

World Effect: Vintage, new, and reclaimed furniture; lighting; rugs; and home accessories, inspired by world travel. The company is committed to socially and environmentally responsible practices and "passionate about supporting Fair Trade, giving back to the communities they work with and minimizing their impact on the environment."

Stalk Vase
Jonathan Adler Stalk Vase Furniture, linens, towels, and home accessories; men, women, and children's clothing; and edibles from around the world. "The main aim of the site is to bring the huge range of fair trade products to market, and to enable the consumer to feel that they can purchase products safe in the knowledge that the producers have not been exploited in any way."

World Fair Trade Organization Market: Furniture, art, statues, sculptures, garden décor, clay and ceramic items, and other home furnishings. "This is the wholesale marketplace of the World Fair Trade Organization … It is comprised of the web catalogs of only the Members who have met the high standards of the WFTO Fair Trade System."

  • Another way to improve the lives of workers is to Go Green.
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