What's Fair? International Fair Trade Certified Products Come Back To The States

Harriet LambHarriet Lamb in Rwanda/ FTI/CC BY 2.0

TreeHugger recently ran a guest post asking Can Fair Trade Coffee Be More Fair?, representing the views of Fair Trade USA.
This is a guest post from Harriet Lamb, Chief Executive of Fairtrade International, which is the global association that sets the internationally-agreed Fairtrade Standards, provides support to producers, and licenses the international FAIRTRADE Mark. She is the author of the book ‘Fighting the Banana Wars and other Fairtrade Battles.’

Fairtrade is about people asking questions. 

It’s about asking where your coffee comes from, how it’s produced, and expecting more from businesses. It’s about farmers coming together to ask for better trade. It’s about businesses asking the hard questions to build a better business.

But at the heart, it’s about democracy, and choices.

fair trade symbol© Fair Trade International

As you wander the shopping aisles at your local grocery, you will begin seeing a new FAIRTRADE Mark showing up on your favorite products. While it may be new to folks in the US, this cheery blue and green Mark is the world’s most recognized and trusted ethical label. In fact, according to a 2011 Globescan survey in 24 countries around the world, over 60% of consumers recognize the FAIRTRADE Mark and of those, nine in ten trust it.

It is trusted because it is backed by strong economic, environmental and social standards; by some of the world’s leading development organizations; by the 1.2 million farmers and workers in the Fairtrade system; and a 25-year strong track record of working with the public, companies and farmers and workers to deliver change.

The Landscape in the USA

Over the past year, there have been big changes in the United States in the world of fair trade. Our member in the US, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) decided to split from our international organization, and made major changes to the internationally-agreed standards . This change threw the fair trade movement in the US and around the world for a loop.

But if there was one positive aspect, it’s that people are re-visiting the question of ‘what’s fair?’ The key question in any discussion on fair trade should be whether farmers and workers have a seat at the table when the rules are written.

At Fairtrade International we know the internationally-agreed Fairtrade Standards are making tremendous impact for farmers and workers. And we believe that genuine involvement of everyone involved is key. Democratic processes permeate the entire system. Our Board of Directors, our General Assembly and our Standards Committee all have strong producer representation ensuring that the ideas of farmers and workers are represented at the highest levels. That isn’t always easy; but it is always better.

Investing in the US

For the past year, we’ve been listening – to the public, the companies, the farmers, and to civil society – so we could find out what people want. The message came back loud and clear that people want the international FAIRTRADE Mark in the USA.

Companies want to be part of our unique international system – soon to be half-owned by producers – with standards that are set through dialogue with stakeholders and a global impact. Companies like the fact that we have a team of more than 50 liaison officers supporting producers from Bolivia to Kenya to Indonesia, and that FLO-CERT certification meets industry standards.

To that end, we have established a non-profit organization in the US called Fairtrade International USA. We recently launched a website at www.fairtradeinternational.us and you can find us on Twitter and Facebook.

As part of October Fair Trade Month, we featured a series of blog posts with ideas and opinions from producers, organizers, licensees and others in the fair trade movement on the topic of ‘What’s Fair’ hoping to keep the fair trade discussion moving forward. Read all of the entries here . We truly believe that Fairtrade can do so very much more. Indeed, we are just at the start of a long struggle to put justice into global trade. We’re working with our global network of farmers and workers, businesses and traders, activists and civil society, to bring Fairtrade to the US – and indeed to the world.
FYI: while the new organization is being built up, our member Fairtrade Canada is helping licensees who want to remain part of the international Fairtrade system and use the international FAIRTRADE Mark in the US. (For anyone interested, please contact license@fairtrade.ca for more information.)

What's Fair? International Fair Trade Certified Products Come Back To The States
Fair Trade USA split from the international organization last year; now Americans can get internationally certified products under a different label.

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