At next Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting, a resolution to declare the city a supporter of fair trade policies is certain to pass. The global fair trade movement is dedicated to securing justice and equity for producers, artisans, farmers and workers as a priority of international commerce. The results of the campaign can be seen in free trade coffee, tea and chocolate, which are available at many supermarkets. The goals of the movement are to make fair trade the rule rather than the exception for many products.

But what does it mean for a city to become fair trade? “As a first step, it will bring some more visibility to fair trade,” says Lauren Van Ham, the chair of the local fair trade steering committee. She says that as a Berkeleyan, she was surprised that San Francisco became a fair trade city in 2008, but Berkeley had not considered the issue. Van Ham and other local supporters are part of the national Fair Trade Towns USA campaign. With the resolution on Tuesday, Berkeley will become the third California city to declare itself a fair trade town, after San Francisco and Chico.

According to Van Ham, research in the UK, where the movement is far more established, has shown that declared fair trade towns see a lasting bump in sales of fair trade goods because of heightened awareness and visibility.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...