The EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award

What is it?

The EU Cities for Fair and Ethical Trade Award is an initiative of the European Commission, which the Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) launched as a commitment of its “Trade for all” communication on trade and investment policy, published in 2015. The new award aims to recognise and celebrate cities’ achievements and positive impact in the areas of social, economic and environmental sustainability in international trade. A particular emphasis is given to fair and ethical trade schemes, as well as other non-governmental sustainability schemes, which may bring more sustainable opportunities to small producers in third countries and thus support sustainable and inclusive development.

The Award is part of the EU’s efforts to raise awareness about how purchasing decisions of EU consumers can affect the environment and livelihoods of people in other countries – and the role that cities and local authorities have to play. Informed decision-making of EU consumers and the role of cities as platforms for increasing information flows about such sustainability schemes are at the core of this Award.

Cities have the opportunity to showcase what is being done to raise awareness about fair and ethical trade at a city level – and to learn about new approaches from other cities and local authorities through exchange of good practices, ideas, initiatives, and innovations. The Award is a new opportunity for cities to raise their international profile and to gain inspiration from the experience of other EU cities in enhancing trade’s contribution to the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. 

What are the benefits to the cities who apply?
  • Increased visibility at the EU level and prestigious recognition for cities supporting fair and ethical trade with extensive media coverage and the winners announced during the award ceremony 
  • Opportunities to collaborate and network with other sustainable cities at the Award Ceremony in June 2018 and follow-up “Sustainable Cities Network” meetings in 2018 and 2019
  • Future support from the International Trade Centre and the European Commission for a city-led sustainable development cooperation project valued at 100’000 EUR
  • Promotion of pioneers and championing of inspiring cities and their stories of sustainable trade

Fair and Ethical: What we mean

Fair and Ethical Trade encompasses a wide array of  initiatives and schemes pertaining to the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable trade. This could include, but is not limited to, initiatives which take into account fair trade or working rights, economic viability, and environmental protection. Overall, the implementation of these practices should serve to improve the living and working conditions of both EU citizens and extra-EU trading communities

Why cities and trade?


Cities have traditionally been hubs of global trade, serving as platforms for Europe’s economic links with the rest of the world. Today, more than two-thirds of Europeans live in cities and towns that play a central role in commerce and awareness of sustainable consumption. As such, EU cities have great potential to drive positive change for sustainable and inclusive trade.
Focus of the Award
The role of the European Commission, as the executive arm of the EU, is to promote both EU interests and values through the conduct of a more responsible trade and investment policy. As part of this effort, the Commission has taken significant steps to support fair, ethical and other sustainability schemes over the years. These efforts are meant to be broad so as not to favour any one scheme in particular. Such schemes are considered beneficial for the advancement of sustainable development. The Commission continues to focus on improving the information flow about sustainability schemes to ensure that EU consumers understand the criteria underlying each scheme and are able to make informed decisions.

The Award primarily covers trade between EU cities and markets in other countries as well as EU consumer demand for fair and ethically produced products. Highlighting the interconnectedness of the EU with the rest of the world is an important part of this initiative.​

The Award is designed to encompass the entire city ecosystem of sustainable trade by focusing on public policy but also valuing essential collaboration with civil society and the private sector. It thus considers both the policies and practices within EU cities in support of, or developing, sustainable trade, including activities, projects, campaigns, and enabling environment in general. This is not limited to the activities and efforts directly put forward by cities (e.g. city councils), but also the other actors within a city’s ‘ecosystem’.  The Award illustrates how EU cities set an example by having global impact on fair, ethical, and sustainable trade across borders.

The award recognises various aspects of a city's engagement in the area of fair and ethical trade:

Leadership, vision, strategy

  • Formulated or documented expressions of commitments in the area of ‘trade with purpose’
  • Integration of sustainability pillars into daily decision-making

Initiatives and Engagement

  • Awareness-raising, educational, and multi-stakeholder cooperation
  • Enabling environment, grassroots activities, creation of incentives 

Impact, effect, achievements

  • Effects of adopted policies (commitment versus progress already made)
  • Any observable impacts of trade practices on trading communities
The Award Timeline
The first Award was presented on June 27, 2018. The proposed approach, set of guidelines, criteria and rules of procedure were defined in a multi-stakeholder consultative process between May and October 2017. The application process opened on 7 December 2017 and submission were due by 20 April 2018 (extended from 13 April). Submissions were reviewed through an evaluation process between April and June 2018.


To the Cities

Promotion of pioneers and championing of inspiring cities and their stories of sustainable trade

Prestigious recognition for cities promoting fair and ethical trade with the winners announced at the award ceremony

Increased visibility and networking opportunities, extensive media coverage

Future support from ITC and the European Commission for a city-led sustainable development project

Exchange of best practices  in fair and ethical trade between cities, citizens, policy makers and businesses