The origins of the Italian Fair Trade Movement…

Today our train takes us further south, but not that south as the Fair Trade movement arose in Italy in its northernmost region, South Tyrol, at the border with Austria. Influenced and supported by the Austrian FT network the first World Shop opened in Bressanone in 1981, shortly followed by a second shop in Bolzano. In 1987 Antonio Vaccaro, one of the initiators of the Italian movement, coined the expression “Commercio equo e solidale” to translate the English term “Fair Trade”. The aim of this translation was that of underlying the core concepts of the movement: equity and solidarity. He stated:

“Solidarity without equity – which implies a social relationship – turns into charity. And charity does not produce transformation, it does not change the state of things. On the other hand, equity without solidarity, that is, without brotherhood, becomes an abstract sense of justice, an empty justice not embedded into a social dimension. “

Vaccaro together with Rudi Dalvai and Heine Grandi founded in 1988 the first Alternative Trade Organization in the country, CTM (Cooperativa Terzo Mondo), today known as CTM Altromercato. Thereafter the movement spread and despite the difficulties, started growing and generating interest, reaching today an important, although still niche, dimension in the consumptions of Italian households.


Our Guaranteed Members from Italy

Our four Italian guaranteed members hold together a huge network of different Fair Trade realities disseminated in the country.



Altromercato is the main Fair Trade Organization in Italy. It is now a consortium of 105 members (consumer cooperatives, non-profit organizations, etc.) and 225 Botteghe del Mondo (World shops) which trade and sell products from 155 partner producer organizations from 45 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Besides, Altromercato’s sales channels also include around 1,500 supermarkets, numerous organic products wholesalers and distributors, an online shop and school canteens.

Their mission is offering international and national marginalized producers the opportunity to enter the jobs market through innovative, sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions. Since 2010 Altromercato is also committed to domestic Fair Trade with the brand “Solidale Italiano Altromercato”: the project was developed to give economic support and to reintegrate Italian disadvantaged producers, revitalizing abandoned regions and turning lands confiscated from mafia into productive areas.

Its range of products consists of food products, a natural cosmetics line, handicraft articles for home and for anniversaries, clothing and accessories from an ethical fashion line. If you want to check them out, click here.


CTM Agrofair

Ctm Agrofair imports and distributes fresh tropical fruits from Fair Trade producers mainly from Central and South America. It was born in 2004 as a joint venture between two organizations leaders in the Fair Trade world such as Agrofair Europe BV (Netherlands) and Ctm Altromercato (Italy). Due to the complexity of fresh products international trade, joining forces was vital to succeed and today Ctm Agrofair distributes fresh Fair Trade fruits all over Italy, with Altromercato brand or with private labels, to the most important supermarkets’ chains, to wholesalers, retailers and Altromercato World Shops. They created a unique system in which from planting to the customer’s shelf, each step is managed by organizations that have Fair Trade at the center of their mission. Have a look at their delicious products here.


Associazione Botteghe del Mondo

Since 1991 it is the national association for the coordination of the Fair Trade World Shops, today it is a network of 60 cooperatives and associations in Italy, running 200 sales points. Their range of activities is pretty wide: an education camp (Tuttounaltrocampo) and a Summer School (Tuttaunaltrascuola) targeting young people, students, and people interested in learning in-depth about Fair Trade. But the Association also organizes a national fair Tuttaunaltracosa, which has come now to its 25th edition, it performs lobbying actions in Italian national and regional political councils and it creates spaces for networking and professional training providing the right tools to spread the word about Fair Trade. If you want to keep updated, take a look at their website.


Equo Garantito

Equo Garantito, Italian General Assembly of Fair Trade Organizations is the umbrella organization of Fair Trade organizations in Italy. It represents 78 organizations and 225 World Shops that sell products and promote the principles of Fair Trade. All organizations belonging to Equo Garantito have agreed on a common standard system to fulfill the values and objectives stated in the Italian Charter of Fair Trade, owned by Equo Garantito. Their four main areas of activity are:

  •   Promotion of Fair Trade in Italy through information campaigns and other awareness-raising activities.
  •   Monitoring of Fair Trade Organizations according to the Italian Charter of Fair Trade and the international principles of WFTO.
  • Education and Training: they offer accessible and useful tools to deepen knowledge in Fair Trade, for instance the online platform Fairshare.
  •   Lobbying and advocacy, working with Italian institutions at a local and national level and participating in the activities of the Fair Trade Advocacy Office.

For more information about Equo Garantito click here.


Our Provisional Members from Italy


Fair is a Fair Trade cooperative promoting and campaigning for social and ecological justice. With its projects, Fair tries to build and communicate new models of production, trade, and consumption starting from local small initiatives that may change the world. Fair collaborates with different local networks active in the social economy, involving public administration and citizens in order to facilitate the construction of local districts based on fair and sustainable principles. In Italy Fair is the promoter of the campaign Abiti Puliti -the Italian version of Clean Clothes Campaign. In 2011 FAIR opened Manifattura Etica, an innovative model of distribution of high-quality essential goods, selected for their high social and environmental criteria. What is more, together with other local associations they created an eco-co-working, l’AltraVia, a friendly place hosting a community of people and organizations that live, work, eat and plan together new ecological models of society and development. To know more about their projects check their website and Facebook page!

Libero Mondo

Libero Mondo is a cooperative that since 1997 has promoted the principles of Fair Trade supporting communities of producers in the southern hemisphere and creating in Italy job opportunities for vulnerable people excluded from employment circuits. Libero Mondo imports and buys products directly from 80 partner producers in 27 countries in America Latina, Africa e Asia, partly pre-financing the purchase (at least 50%). The raw products bought are then transformed in the Italian laboratories, packed and sold in Fair Trade shops, organic stores, wine bars, pastry shops, hotels. They provide a wide range of products: cosmetics, handicrafts, home décor, and a variety of options as regards food products (biologic, bio-dynamic, vegan…). You can find a map of the retailers selling Libero Mondo products here.