May 13, 2009

Fair Trade Labeling

We have a new site where you can read all articles from This is Ghana in a much more organised fashion. Read Fair Trade Labeling there.

So, how does this labeling business work?

"Fair Trade Certified" label (Transfair USA) and

Max Havelaar (Europe) and

“Fairtrade Mark” (Fairtrade Foundation UK) all meet the criteria established by FLO—Fairtrade Labelling Organisation—the body charged with overseeing fair-trade labeling worldwide. FLO’s efforts were designed to certify commodities like tea, coffee, sugar, etc, that have a widespread impact the lives of developing world producers. FLO has established common fair trade principles, procedures and specific certification requirements for commodities worldwide.

The Fair Trade Mark is an initiative of the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK. The Fairtrade Foundation is the licencing body for FLO in the UK.

The Fairtrade Mark is only attached to certain types of products: food and, more recently, cotton. If a food product in the UK claims to be fair trade it should carry the mark. If it doesn’t, it’s possible the producer has not applied to use the mark—it costs money to go through the application process and small producers can find it tough to get the money together—or that they do not wish to be subject to the scrutiny that certification necessitates. The former is understandable; the latter is a concern. As a consumer you must make a decision about whether to trust unlabeled “fair trade” commodities.

Actually, update from the Fairtrade Foundtion site:

"Over 4,500 products have been licensed to carry the FAIRTRADE Mark including coffee, tea, herbal teas, chocolate, cocoa, sugar, bananas, grapes, pineapples, mangoes, avocados, apples, pears, plums, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, satsumas, clementines, mandarins, lychees, coconuts, dried fruit, juices, smoothies, biscuits, cakes & snacks, honey, jams & preserves, chutney & sauces, rice, quinoa, herbs & spices, seeds, nuts & nut oil, wines, beers, rum, confectionary, muesli, cereal bars, yoghurt, ice-cream, flowers, sports balls, sugar body scrub and cotton products including clothing, homeware, cloth toys, cotton wool and olive oil."

In the USA, TransFair’s Fair Trade Certified logo adheres to FLO’s standards—just for commodities.

So, how do craft, fashion or jewellery producing organisations claim to be fair trade?

Non-commodity producing, fair trade organisations do have options. They can apply to be certified as a “fair trade ORGANISATION”. This ensures that the organisation that works with craft, jewellery, textiles, fashion, and other non-commodities producers adheres to fair-trade standards set by the monitoring and certifying organisations. The certifying process is strict, lengthy and expensive. The standards, which are best explained at the World Fair Trade Organisation's site, include: payment terms, prices paid, environmental practices, health and safety, sustainable trading relationships, gender equity, transparency, accountability, and capacity building.

In the US, the certifying body is the Fair Trade Federation. For the rest of the world (and US producers that seek it, such as Global Mamas) the WFTO is it. The WFTO to organisation certification what FLO is to product certification. The WFTO also works closely with FLO.

The hand-made products themselves produced by the fair trade organisations are not certified. This is because the individual products, unlike commodities, cannot be certified. It is comparatively easy (which does not diminish the challenges associated with this process) to establish agreed upon worldwide standards for a commodity like tea compared to, say, handmade craft products—there are literally hundreds of thousands of different hand-made products and it is impossible for any organisation to set comparable standards by which to certify every single product. What matters is that consumers can be confident that businesses or NGOs that are members of either the FTF, FF, or WFTO operate according to Fair Trade criteria thruoghout the value chain.

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