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Fair Trade Labels Get Debated, Switched and Created

For years the Fair Trade movement, and consumers, have grappled with issues around labels, certification systems, and credibility. This summer such debate is heating up, especially in Europe, where most international certification organizations are based. The following recent developments evidence mounting attention, concern and opportunities related to label issues:

Equal Exchange, the largest Fair Trade organization in N. America, recently switched its label and certification system to IMO’s Fair for Life from FLO/TransFair USA’s Fair Trade Certified. Equal says that one reason is to submit its own company to the comparable scrutiny of producer organizations. That provides customers with an extra level of information and confidence about the final seller as well.

Ecocert, based in Europe like FLO and IMO, launched a new certification and label that the organization describes as Fair Trade, solidarity and responsibility. FTRN has not yet confirmed that other Fair Trade Organizations recognize the new label, Ecocert ESR, as Fair Trade.  In Belgium, one company, Ethiquable, has launched its first Ecocert ESR certified products: potato crisps from Peru, as well as a chocolate bar from Ecuador. Further details in Trade for Development Centre article.

Earlier this year, the World Fair Trade Organization certified its first member to pilot WFTO’s new certification system for handicrafts, called SFTMS, and use the interim label “Certified Fair Trade.” Details at WFTO.

During much of 2010, TransFair USA has been developing a pilot apparel certification, to benefit cotton farmers and sewing workers. The Fair Trade Certified label would be available for the first time on apparel. Details at TransFair USA.

FLO has begun a year-long process revamping its framework for Fair Trade Certified standards. Expert comment is now being welcomed at FLO.

In France, the world’s first government authority on Fair Trade has been established. The official agency, the National Fair Trade Commission (CNCE), lends legal and statutory support to Fair Trade. It appears to recognize at least 3 Fair Trade identification systems: FLO; Ecocert; Artisans du Monde. Further details in Trade for Development Centre article.

On June 10-11 in the Netherlands, key organizations debated the future role of eco-labels, the evolution of organic and Fair Trade certification, carbon & water footprints, ethical sourcing, sustainable packaging, retailer strategies and ethical consumer behavior. Details at Sustainable Foods Summit.

At Fair Trade Futures, expected to be the largest Fair Trade conference in N. American history, one of the key debates is titled “Is Certification Compatible with Fair Trade?” Other workshops and debates are likely to focus on labels and certifications as well during the September 10-12 conference outside Boston. Details at Fair Trade Futures.

2 Comments

  1. Thanks very much for this update. While these different certification approaches necessitate a lot of analysis to shift through differences and standards, I am glad to see that the movement is expanding approaches to get us closer to the goal of fairer trade for all.

  2. I agree with Jackie. Having multiple certification systems is not necessarily a bad thing, rather it is an indication that fair trade is pushing people towards ethical consumerism. This is great, as more companies adopt ethical policies, and practices.

    Perhaps the role of FLO and FLO-cert is moving from certification of the products and producers, towards certifying the certification process itself – meaning that they can provide advice on converting producers to fair trade equivalents, and what prices might be paid, what standards should be accepted…basically provide the framework for certification to be easier for organisations to do.

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