Frequently Asked Questions


The focus of the Award, as a DG Trade initiative, is on trade between EU cities and extra-EU countries. Procurement, to the extent that it is connected to sustainable trade, is however most relevant. This could range from (for example) proof of procurement of goods which carry a sustainable trade certification (e.g. Fairtrade, UTZ, Rainforest Alliance) to official city policies that require procurement of sustainably produced/traded goods. While broader and more internationally-oriented sustainable procurement policies would be viewed more favourably, the EU-oriented sustainable procurement policies are very relevant to mention.

Cities are generally encouraged to include a broader summarization of their sustainability strategy in the Award application, highlighting trade aspects as much as feasible and relevant. Generally, the city does not need to have an explicit “fair trade” strategy or agreement in place. In fact, we encourage applicants to take a broader approach and include efforts on sustainable trade, of which fair trade is a subset. Broader sustainability strategies that include fair and ethical trade are perfectly eligible for the application.

The city does not need an explicit “fair trade” strategy or agreement. In fact, we encourage applicants to take a broader approach and include efforts on sustainable trade, of which fair trade is a subset. Broader sustainability strategies that include fair and ethical trade are therefore perfectly eligible for the application. This is also again reflected in the guidance for Question 1 in Section 2 of the application form, where the description of the vision and strategy towards sustainable trade is tackled (including e.g. linkages of the city’s strategy to other global initiatives in sustainable development, such as SDGs).

As per the Rules of Contest, “sustainable, fair and ethical trade” encompasses a wide range of initiatives and schemes pertaining to the social, economic, and environmental pillars of international trade. This includes, but is not limited to, initiatives that take into account working and social rights, economic viability, and environmental protection. Such initiatives can include a variety of voluntary standards and labels, but they can also go cover other tools and mechanisms.

Overall, the implementation of these practices should serve to improve the living and working conditions of both EU citizens and extra-EU trading communities. This is also reflected in the guidance for Question 1 in Section 2 of the application form, where the description of the vision and strategy towards sustainable trade is tackled (including e.g. linkages of the city’s strategy to other global initiatives in sustainable development, such as SDGs).

The applications can certainly mention initiatives going beyond the concept of a certified label. That is just one opportunity or one possibility. If you are talking about sustainability via other tools or channels, that is indeed possible.

No. It is not a requirement that you have a partner or a city twinning. Nevertheless, mentioning any projects with a city (not necessarily in an official partnership) in the developing world could be a valuable component of the application, given the focus and scope of the Award. Further, in terms of the final question (Question 6) in the application form, we would like to hear about any possible development project(s) the city would like to undertake. As an example, that project could be one that the applicant city would like to develop with another city (in a developing/emerging economy), but this is not a restrictive condition. Other ideas on development projects, not necessarily involving a city, which could be implemented are also welcome (e.g. activities with Civil Society Organizations, NGOs, etc.).


Please refer to Section V (Evaluation Process and Criteria) of the Award’s Rules of Contest.


By all means, there are no restrictions on the number of applications or tenures of awards by EU cities in any cycle. There is equally no discrimination applied in the evaluation process in this regard.

No. Cities must apply as individual cities (see the Rules of Contest, Section II). However, if there are cooperation programs between cities on sustainable and/or fair and ethical trade, those would be taken into account for an application submitted by an applicant city. Also, the development of networks within the EU to trade with partners is something we encourage to mention in the application, if applicable.

As per the Rules of Contest Section II.5, the application may be initiated by either any representative from the city government or any other stakeholders in the city such as citizens, civil society organisations or the private sector. The latter are encouraged to nominate their city for the Award, by way of starting the application on the city’s behalf, and/or by encouraging the city to apply and by supporting the collection of the necessary information to share with the relevant city representatives. Any such nominations will need to be accepted by the local city government, which will have to coordinate and manage the completion and submission of the application. The local authority should submit the application formally. The application submission is not complete without a Mayoral Declaration.

There are no fixed requirements for that under this Award. Considering that trade is a cross-cutting issue, it is assumed that more individuals from various departments in the city administration would contribute to compiling the application. The competences of those submitting an application will largely depend on the organisational structure of the city administration and the potential contribution of external actors, such as civil society organisations active in the city.

The purpose of the Mayoral Declaration is to make sure that the wider city representation is aware of the application being submitted on behalf of the city. As long as this is ensured, there can be exceptions in terms of signing the declaration by someone else in the city council. The completed Mayoral Declaration can be signed and stamped by the signatory authorised by national law to legally represent the city. Apart from the Mayor this could be the Deputy-Mayor of the city, and/or other senior political representatives in charge of international cooperation or sustainable development. Please contact us ahead of submitting to check for specific cases.


Absolutely, the online submission portal allows for repeated returns to the application in progress. Only when the final application with all supporting evidence and the Mayoral Declaration is submitted, the process is complete.

Cities should answer the questions as openly as possible. The application process under this Award is an opportunity to gather a range of stories, successes and solutions in the area of sustainable trade and the role of cities therein. The application should therefore focus on a coherent story of the city’s approach toward fair, ethical and sustainable trade. However, this will not limit cities in their applications since cities are free to mention any quantifiable evidence wherever applicable, and relevant guidance is provided in the Application Form Guidelines for each question. ​

Generally, the response should show whether – and how – the city is monitoring and analyzing the effects of its activities on sustainable, fair and ethical trade. It is also an opportunity to showcase any relevant existing short- and long-term effects (impact, including such that can be linked to the promotion of social, environmental and economic considerations in trade with non-EU countries. Generally, this can be a description of how the city’s landscape has evolved over time in terms of the consumer opportunities to buy sustainably-sourced products (e.g. both with and without a direct link to city’s interventions), any observations the city may have from its connections with counterparts in developing countries, or any anecdotes about the opportunities created for suppliers of fair and ethical products (especially those linked to the city’s policies and/or strategy). Please consult the Application Form Guidelines for further details.

Using the conjunction of ‘systems, policies and actions’ in Question 2 is to give the applicant city a larger scope to describe how they directly and indirectly support fair and ethical trade through the city’s own policies and practices. The focus is on the municipal policies (codified one way or another) and specific actions (the Application Form Guidelines refer to e.g. training of procurement officials, etc.). ‘Systems’ do not refer to any specific definition, but may mean a complex of measures that are codified (or not) in a policy or policies together with actions/rules/procedures.

By ‘[supplying communities in] third countries’, the Award application form refers to all extra-EU countries in which products destined for the EU market are produced. Given the development dimension of the Award, a particular focus would be on emerging markets and developing countries. There is no specific list of such countries that the Award takes into formal consideration, but the UN’s country development classification of 2019 may serve as a relevant guidance.

The application is based on answers to the question, in written form; the uploaded evidence is only supportive to this. Cities will have the opportunity to include a maximum of three supporting documents/pieces of evidence at the end of each question, either in the form of URLs or downloadable files. Such evidence should pertain directly to the applicants’ answers by including a reference to the evidence in the text. It should not be used as a way to include new information that did not fit in the narrative due to the word limit.

The evidence to include can cover a range of different types of information, including newspaper stories, press releases, short videos, photographs, existing websites (the URL), brochures, booklets, surveys, or impact assessment studies. It can also encompass signatures or testimonials from sustainable trade partners. The content does not have to have been produced by the city itself, although official documents, such as policies, guidelines or statements, could also support the narrative in several questions.


As per the Rules of Contest Section III.3, to facilitate the handling, analysis and comparison of applications, and to facilitate the cities’ exchange of experiences in the Network of Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade (for future shortlisted cities), cities are encouraged to submit their application in English. However, applications can be submitted in any of the twenty-four (24) official working languages of the EU. Submitted applications will be translated into English for evaluation purposes by the Secretariat of the Award (evidence material will however remain in the original language).

Supporting evidence can be submitted in any of the 24 official EU languages. Unlike the applications themselves, supporting evidence will, however, not be translated, though efforts will be made to assign the application to evaluators who speak the language.

Applicants should ideally use the pre-designed form in English that is already on the website. This very simple form needs to be completed, signed and stamped by the authorized signatory for the city. If there are issues in using the Mayoral Declaration Form, for example because of the language of your submission is another EU language than English, please kindly contact us at the Award Secretariat to find a relevant arrangement that would fulfil the requirement of uploading a valid Declaration.


The project is indeed guaranteed, along with the participation of the winning city. By winning the overall Award, the winner is offered the opportunity to implement the development project, automatically. The project is an opportunity to make positive impact and become an even more visible champion of Fair and Ethical Trade in the EU. As such, this project is conceived as a real benefit to the city winning the Award, in the sense of the city receiving the technical support by ITC. ITC will lead the development of the project plan jointly with the winning city, and later on will support and drive the implementation in full consultation with the winning city. It is an opportunity to set up a very interesting partnership, as the winning city can implement its own project by taking advantage of ITC’s technical expertise and DG Trade’s financial support.

ITC and the city would be implementing the development project. DG Trade funds the project, and as such would have the project oversight. The funds come from DG Trade to ITC, who is be the technical implementing agency thanks to its mandate and expertize, ITC would work with the winning city to implement the project in order to achieve the expected developmental outcome. The allocation of 100,000EUR would be 100% utilized for the implementation of the project via ITC (including any local costs, travel costs or consultancy fees of short-term hired experts delivering technical aspects of the project, etc.).

The project will be developed and implemented by ITC and the winning city jointly. The winning city can include its partners in the project where relevant. We recommend mentioning any partners to be involved in a potential project in the relevant section of the application (Question 6).

​​Yes, starting a twinning process with a city from the global south is relevant to the application even if it has not yet begun. In this case, please provide information on the potential project and the criteria/rationale for choosing the twin city in the global south.

No. We are only looking for the overall project concept/idea at this stage, with as concrete details as possible.

The EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award is an initiative of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade implemented by the International Trade Centre.