The concept of fair trade has been around for over 40 years according to FINE but a formal labeling scheme did not get off the ground until the late 1980s.
1988: launch of the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, under the initiative of the Dutch improvement agency Solidaridad. The first Fairtrade coffee from Mexico was sold into Dutch supermarkets. It was recognized Max Havelaar, after a imaginary Dutch character who opposed the use of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies.
Late ‘80s and early ‘90s: The Max Havelaar initiative is replicated in several other markets across Europe and North America Max Havelaar Transfair (in Germany, Austria, the United States, Canada and Japan), Fairtrade Mark in the UK and Ireland, Rättvisemärkt in Sweden, and Reilu Kauppa in Finland.
1997: Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International was established in Bonn, Germany to unite the labeling initiative under one umbrella and establish international standards and certification.
2002: FLO launches a new International Fairtrade Certification Mark. The goals of the launch were to improve the visibility of the Mark on supermarket shelves, make easy cross border trade and simplify export procedures for both producers and exporters.
2004: FLO split into two independent organizations: FLO International, which sets Fairtrade standards and provides producer business support, and FLO-CERT, which inspect and certifies producer organization and audits traders.
2006: The Fairtrade Certification Mark harmonization process is still under way – today, all but three Labeling Initiatives (namely Transfair USA, TransFair Canada and Switzerland) have adopted the new International Fairtrade Certification Mark. Full transition to the new Fairtrade certification Mark should become reality as it steadily replaces the old certification marks at a variety of speeds in various countries.
2007: 21 labeling initiative are members of FLO International. New additions include Mexico and Australia/New Zealand.