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Some Insights Into IMO’s “Fair for Life” System

In November, FTRN produced the second of a 4-part webinar series on “Clarifying Fair Trade Certifications.” The latest webinar, about how “Fair for Life” (FFL) works along the supply chain, featured Deputy Manager IMO Social & Fairtrade Certification, Florentine Meinshausen, and IMO “Fair for Life” U.S. Director, Kerry Hughes. You can download the 1.5-hr Webinar 102 recording, or register for upcoming webinars, at FTRN Webinars.

Points about the FFL system according to IMO include:

FFL has 100 projects certified, with 30 more in application process.

FFL can certify smallholder producer groups, hired labor, and others along supply chain.

Certification can apply to many types of production operations (smallholder farms, plantations) for many kinds of products, from agriculture and aquaculture to textiles, mining and handicrafts, etc. For textiles, tailoring/manufacturing stage must undergo FFL certification since it’s the most labor-intense stage.

Starting in 2011, new standards will apply to artisan groups who don’t use their own raw materials in handicraft production. To date, no handicraft producers have been certified.

IMO also does on-site audits of the consumer country buyer/importer and brandholder, and registers any intermediate manufacturers.

FFL requires full physical traceability.

FFL checks relationship of handlers to producers, and to its own workers in consumer/North countries.

Example certification of 2 palm oil projects in Sri Lanka: 300 farmers and 90 mill workers had auditors on site for 4.25 days for FFL, and another 4 days for organic certification. FFL certification costed $4000. No licensing fees.

Content requirement for FFL label use mandates that 95% of a product’s ingredients must be FFL certified (changing to 80% in 2011 as consumer country production can be certified FFL).

FFL has always accepted comparable certifications as equivalent, such as Soil Association Ethical Trade program, EcoCert on individual product basis, FLO, etc., to reduce burden on producers of getting multiple certifications.

After certification, a summary of the evaluation and performance rating are posting on FFL website.

For each project certified, IMO publishes the amount of FT premium received and how it was used.

Buyers can be members of the Committee that decides how to use the premium.

IMO doesn’t have formal multi-stakeholder governance, but sometimes consults stakeholders.

FFL currently verifies that a fair price and premium are negotiated between producer group and each of their buyers, in part requiring that the fair price is above market prices.  Starting in 2011, FFL will require a minimum price set by each producer group that would be paid by all buyers from that producer group.

Committee that decides how to use the premium can consist of producers, workers, local NGOs, and buyers.

FFL allows buyers to hold the FFL certificate, in cases where producers prefer that to reduce their risk and guarantee a buyer for their products. FFL verifies that buyers holding certificates don’t exploit producers.

FFL currently requires that workers have a right to organize, not the existence of an active worker organization. Starting in 2011, the standards will be stricter with regard to freedom of associations with more focus on an active workers organization, and well-working internal grievance processes to raise workers concerns .

More at Webinar 102 recording.

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