Fairtrade certification

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Fairtrade)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Fairtrade certification initiative was created to form a new method for economic trade. This method takes an ethical standpoint, and considers the producers first.

In the 1960s and 1970s, several early attempts were made to market fair trade products. In 1988, Dutch Non-profit organization Stichting Max Havelaar launched the first Fairtrade Certification Mark, initially applied to coffee originating from the UCIRI cooperative in Mexico, and later expanded to other products. Fairtrade sales prior to labeling initiatives were contained to relatively small world shops (also called charity shops), operated by alternative trading organizations (ATOs) such as Oxfam and Traidcraft. Fairtrade International was established in 1997.

Fairtrade International started with the coffee industry, but now covers a range of products such as cocoa, fruit, cotton, flowers, tea and others. The established buyers of these products make up a niche market, which makes marketing for Fairtrade a challenge.

As of 2016, 1,411 producer organizations in 73 developing countries were Fairtrade certified, representing over 1.66 million farmers and workers.[1]


The fair trade movement stemmed from an initiative established by the Dutch development agency, Solidaridad, and aimed to create more equality between coffee producers and roasters. The agency recognized that the producers were not being treated fairly, and strived to create a more ethical system to trade.

The Max Havelaar seal, which was based on a fictional character, was established "to license existing roasters and retailers who complied with its fair trade criteria". The seal provided specific benefits for cooperatives of small coffee producers in Mexico, with the aim of balancing the production of crops to be exported, as well as crops for the local population. The four benefits in this early model of the fairtrade initiative were:

  1. A guaranteed minimum price to protect producers from any potential falls in the global market.
  2. An additional 10% of the market price for their investment in social and environmental projects.
  3. A 60% advance to producers to reduce the pressure of selling their product "immediately after harvest when its price is lowest"
  4. A commitment by roasters to eliminate any other parties within the supply chain, with the aim of dealing more directly with producers.

The initiative was a great financial success and was replicated in several other markets: in the ensuing years, similar non-profit Fairtrade labelling organizations were set up in other European countries and North America, called "Max Havelaar" (in Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and France), "Transfair" (in Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Italy, the United States, Canada and Japan), or carrying a national name: "Fairtrade Mark" in the UK and Ireland, "Rättvisemärkt" in Sweden, and "Reilu kauppa" (Finnish) or "Rejäl handel" (Swedish) in Finland.

Retail value
Global Fairtrade sales[2][3][4]
Year Sales value

2014 5 900 000 000
2011 4 900 000 000
2010 4 300 000 000
2009 3 400 000 000
2008 2 900 000 000
2007 2 381 000 000
2006 1 623 000 000
2005 1 142 000 000
2004 832 000 000
2003 555 000 000
2002 300 000 000
2001 248 000 000
2000 220 000 000

Initially, while the Max Havelaars and the Transfairs co-operated product by product with equivalent standards and producer lists there was no contractual agreement to ensure global standards. In 1994, a process of convergence among the labelling organizations – or "LIs" (for "Labelling Initiatives") – started with the establishment of a TransMax working group, culminating in 1997 in the creation of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, now simply known as Fairtrade International (FLO). FLO is an umbrella organization whose mission is to set the Fairtrade Standards, support, inspect and certify disadvantaged producers and harmonize the Fairtrade message across the movement.

In 2002, FLO launched a new International Fairtrade Certification Mark, effectively replacing most previous Max Havelaar and TransFair certification marks. The goals of the launch were to improve the visibility of the Mark on supermarket shelves, facilitate cross-border trade and simplify export procedures for both producers and exporters.

Today, all but one labeling initiative have fully adopted the new mark. TransFair USA has apparently elected to continue with its own Fair Trade Certified Mark for the time being,[5] while the Canadian organization currently allows certified products to carry either mark, it is transitioning toward the sole use of the International Fairtrade Certification Mark.

In January 2004, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International was divided into two independent organizations: Fairtrade International (FLO), which sets Fairtrade Standards and provides producer business support, and FLO-CERT, which inspects and certifies producer organizations. The aim of the split was to ensure the impartiality, the independence of the certification process and compliance with ISO 65 standards for product certification bodies.

At present, over 25 labelling initiatives and producer networks are members or associate members of Fairtrade International. There are now FAIRTRADE Certification Marks on dozens of different products, based on FLO's certification for coffee, tea, rice, bananas, mangoes, cocoa, cotton, sugar, honey, fruit juices, nuts, fresh fruit, quinoa, herbs and spices, wine and footballs.

In 2009, fair trade coffee was sufficiently mainstream that Walmart, the world's largest retailer began selling it, and pricing it about the same as regular.[6]

The Fairtrade and Fairmined dual certification for gold was launched across the United Kingdom on 14 February 2011,[7] a joint scheme between The Fairtrade Foundation and The Association for Responsible Mining.

The global market[edit]

The Solidaridad informed large audiences of the mistreatment of coffee producers and poor living conditions in developing countries. They worked with other associations as well as the mass media to spread the message and create an awareness of their fair trade initiative. Because of their efforts, in 1988 the first bag of Max Havelaar sealed coffee from Mexico was delivered to Holland's Prince Claus, and was launched to be sold in supermarkets throughout Holland. By the 1990s every western European country had established their own national version of the Max Havelaar initiative.

Between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s, multiple national initiatives following a fair trade system coexisted within Europe, the US, Canada, and Japan.[8] In 1997, however, 17 national initiatives joined forces to create one international umbrella organisation called the Fair Trade Organization (FLO). FLO is based in Bonn, Germany, and has quickly become the largest organisation of its kind.[8] FLO also has branches and field workers in Africa, Central and South America and China. The international fair trade label was introduced in 2002 to improve visibility for consumers. The Fairtrade producers did not like the way they were treated.

Marketing fair trade[edit]

A key part of the fair trade initiative is to inform consumers through innovative marketing. The marketing must create a value proposition for the initiative that encompasses the ethical side, as well as the quality of the product.[8]

Fairtrade standards[edit]

A T-shirt made from Fairtrade certified cotton

Fairtrade standards contain minimum requirements that all producer organizations must meet to become certified as well as progress requirements in which producers must demonstrate improvements over time. To become certified Fairtrade producers, the cooperatives and their member farmers must operate to certain standards laid down by Fairtrade International. FLO-CERT, the for-profit side, handles producer certification, inspecting and certifying producer organizations in more than 50 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.[9]

There are several types of Fairtrade standards, including standards for contract situations,[10] for importers,[11] and also for the different products.[12]

Fairtrade standards for small farmers' organizations include requirements for democratic decision making, so that farmers may have a say in how the Fairtrade Premiums are invested. They also include requirements for capacity building and economic strengthening of the organization.[13]

Fairtrade standards for hired labour situations specify that employees receive minimum wages and collective bargaining. The standards also specify that Fairtrade-certified plantations should have no forced or child labour and that health and safety requirements are met. In a hired labour situation, Fairtrade standards require a "joint body" to be set up with representatives from both the management and the employees. This joint body decides on how Fairtrade Premiums will be spent to benefit plantation employees.[14]

Fairtrade standards and procedures are approved by the Fairtrade International Standards Committee, an external committee comprising all FLO stakeholders (labeling initiatives, producers and traders) and external experts. Fairtrade standards are set by FLO in accordance to the requirements of the ISEAL Code of Good Practice in standard setting and are in addition the result of a consultation process, involving a variety of stakeholders: producers, traders, external experts, inspectors, and certification staff.[15]

A Fairtrade standard for timber was introduced in 2010 in partnership with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).[16]

Composite products (food products made from various ingredients, such as chocolate bars or ice cream), may carry the Fairtrade mark indicating that they meet Fairtrade standards if they include at least a minimum amount of ingredients which are Fairtrade certified.[17] The first version of the Fairtrade Food Composite Products Standard] was in place from 1 July 2011.[18]

A New Standards Framework (NSF) came into effect on 1 July 2012, intended to make the standards "easier to understand and more adaptable to the different situations of producers across the world".[19]

Fairtrade pricing[edit]

The main aspects of the Fairtrade system are the Minimum Price and the Premium. These are paid to the exporting firm, usually a second tier cooperative, not to the farmer. They are not paid for everything produced by the cooperative members, but for that proportion of their output they are able to sell with the brand 'Fairtrade Certified', typically 17% of their turnover, rising to as much as 60% in a few cases.

  • The Fairtrade Premium is an extra payment over the market price (e.g. an extra 20c/lb for coffee) which is paid to the exporting organization. The residual after extra costs incurred in producing and marketing Fairtrade have been met must be spent on "social projects" for social and economic development in the producing communities, rather than being given to farmers as extra payment.[20][21] The producers themselves decide how these funds are to be spent. They are generally used for improvements in health, education or other social facilities, although it may also be used for certain development projects to enable farmers to improve productivity or reduce their reliance on single commodities. Fairtrade producer organizations are required to be able to show what happened to the money, and FLO-CERT should check whether they have such a system in place.
  • The Fairtrade Minimum Price is a guaranteed price to be paid for a few products like coffee.

Fairtrade inspection and certification[edit]

Fairtrade inspection and certification are carried out by FLO-CERT, an independent, for-profit body created by Fairtrade International. FLO-CERT certifies that both producers and traders have met with Fairtrade standards.FLO-CERT inspections and certification follow the international ISO standards for product certification bodies (ISO 65).[22]

FLO-CERT works with a network of around 100 independent inspectors that regularly visit producer and trade organizations and report back to FLO-CERT. All certification decisions are then taken by a Certification Committee, composed of stakeholders from producers, traders, national labelling organisations and external experts. An Appeals Committee handles all appeals.

In 2006, a Financial Times journalist found that ten out of the ten mills they visited had sold uncertified coffee to co-operatives as certified. It reported that they were "also handed evidence of at least one coffee association that received Fairtrade certification despite illegally growing some 20 per cent of its coffee in protected national forest land.[23]

Certification costs and returns[edit]

Certified organizations such as cooperatives have to pay FLO-CERT a fee to become certified and a further annual fee for audit and continued certification[22] The first year certification fee per unit sold as "Fairtrade certified" varies but has been over 6c/lb with an annual fee of 3c/lb to 3.4c/lb for coffee up to 2006 in some countries, at a time when the "Fairtrade premium" was 5c to 10c/lb.[24]

Fairtrade farmers also have to meet a large range of criteria on production: there are limits on using child labour, pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified products and so on.[25]

Shared Earth, a Fairtrade shop in Leeds, West Yorkshire

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Monitoring the Scope and Benefits of Fairtrade: Impact Report 2017 - Fairtrade Monitoring Report - 9th Edition". Fairtrade Monitoring Report - 9th Edition. Archived from the original on 2018-09-05. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  2. ^ Fairtrade International (2006). Annual Reports 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Archived 2015-04-27 at archive.today. Accessed April 26, 2011.
  3. ^ Fairtrade International 2011-2012 Annual Report Accessed April 30, 2013
  4. ^ Fairtrade International 2014-2015 Annual Report Accessed February 2, 2016
  5. ^ TransFair USA FAQ - "TransFair USA, has elected to continue using its current label."
  6. ^ What to Buy at Walmart 2009; revised 2011; accessed 2013.
  7. ^ Kate Carter (14 February 2011). "Fairtrade hallmark sets the gold standard". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  8. ^ a b c Nicholls, A., & Opal, C. (2005). Fairtrade certification. In Fair trade: Market-driven ethical consumption (p. 128). London.
  9. ^ FLO-CERT (2008). FLO-CERT Archived 2009-09-18 at the Wayback Machine. URL accessed on August 1, 2008.
  10. ^ "Fairtrade standard for Contract Production" (PDF). Fairtrade International. September 25, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 10, 2013. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  11. ^ "Generic Fairtrade Trade Standard" (PDF). Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. April 2, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 2, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  12. ^ "Our standards" (PDF). Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  13. ^ "Fairtrade Standard for Small Producer Organizations" (PDF). Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International e.V. July 11, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  14. ^ "Fairtrade standard for Hired Labour" (PDF). Fairtrade International. December 29, 2011. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
  15. ^ Fairtrade International (2006). Standard Setting Archived 2006-09-25 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed October 4, 2006
  16. ^ Fairtrade International, Challenge and Opportunity: Annual Review 2010-11, accessed 9 July 2021
  17. ^ Fairtrade International, Composite Products, accessed 21 April 2021
  18. ^ Fairtrade International, Fairtrade Food Composite Products Standard, updated 24 June 2011, accessed 21 April 2021
  19. ^ Fairtrade International, Fairtrade’s New Standards Framework: Questions and Answers, published 12 May 2011, accessed 11 July 2021
  20. ^ "Fairtrade Standard for Coffee for Small Producer Organizations" (PDF). Fairtrade International. April 1, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  21. ^ "Fairtrade Standard for Small Producer Organizations" (PDF). Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International e.V. July 11, 2011. p. 28. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
  22. ^ a b "FLO-CERT Gmbh, (2011) Fee System Small Producer Organization - Explanatory Document. www.flo-cert.net, Retrieved January 3, 2013". Archived from the original on January 29, 2013. Retrieved January 25, 2013.
  23. ^ Weitzman, Hal (9 September 2006). "The bitter cost of 'fair trade' coffee". An emerging criticism of Fairtrade within the industry is that the organisation misleads consumers about its ability to monitor production practices. FLO Cert, a body officially independent of FLO, monitors the certification process. Critics say there is a need for an outside auditor. “The way Fairtrade promotes itself is a little irresponsible,” says Mr Watts. “The certifiers need an external watchdog.”. The Financial Times Ltd. Financial Times. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  24. ^ de Janvry, A., McIntosh, C., & Sadoulet, E. (2010). Fair Trade and Free Entry:The Dissipation of Producer Benefits in a Disequilibrium Market. Retrieved December 24, 2012, from http://are.berkeley.edu/~alain/workingpapers.html
  25. ^ "Generic Fairtrade Trade Standard" (PDF). Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International e.V. April 2, 2012. p. 11. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 2, 2013. Retrieved January 15, 2013.

External links[edit]