Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is Fair Trade really fair?

While the fair trade certification has played a key role in bringing awareness to the public, about the livelihoods and complexities of the coffee supply chain, recent events seem to indicate that the movement, and the FT certification is becoming nothing but another profit driven business.  See article:

Fair Trade USA's split from the FLO system, is not just a difference in opinions. It represents a trend in the commercialization of the "fair trade" brand and certification. I call it the commoditization of certifications. Everyone and anybody is now attaching the "Fair Trade" label on products. The split of the FT USA label from FLO system is just the culmination of this drift from commitment to commoditization. "Certifications" need to make money.  And to this end they need to get more subscribers and buyers of their labels. And to do this, they need to "certify" larger tracks of land and farm. Since this is not economically rational to do with small farmers, they must now certify "large farmers". Plantations actually. Big land owners who not necessarily practice "fair" standards in employment, sustainability or procurement. And while nobody is saying that they are "bad" or wrong and that we can certainly but from them, what we are saying is that they dont deserve the "Fair Trade" label. And that FT USA is bending the rules to allow these large plantations to use their label. Since these labels are private, no one regulates them, in the end, it will be us, you and me, who will decide the fairness of this. Will you buy and pay more for a Fair Trade USA certified product? Certainly not me! You make the call....

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