Fair Trade: What is It and How to Certify

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On the Rise
Since 2000, the Fair Trade industry has grown extensively, leading to more than a half dozen certification and membership associations. Sales and consumer awareness have increased tremendously as well:

• According to the International Fair Trade Association, in 2006 there were $2.6 billion in fair trade sales ($160 million FTF Members)
• In 2006, the cocoa sector grew 93% according to the Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO).

• In addition, coffee gew by 53%; tea by 41%; and, bananas by 31%.

What is Fair Trade
Fair trade is a system of exchange that seeks to create greater equity and partnership in the international trading system by

* Providing fair wages in the local context,

* Supporting safe, healthy, and participatory workplaces,
* Supplying financial and technical support to build capacity,
* Ensuring environmental sustainability,

* Respecting cultural identity,
* Offering public accountability and transparency,
* Building direct and long-term relationships, and

* Educating consumers.

Source: Fair Trade Federation

Fair trade is a holistic approach to trade and development that aims to alter the ways in which commerce is conducted, so that trade can empower the poorest of the poor.

CERTIFICATIONS

The “Fair Trade Certified” system involves non-profit organizations in 17 different countries, all affiliated with Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International including the European Fair Label Organization (FLO). In the USA, TransFair USA places the “Fair Trade Certified” label on coffee, cocoa, tea, bananas and other fruits. This label is product-specific, meaning that its presence on one product doesn’t mean that all of the companies products are Fair Trade. The Fair Trade Federation (FTF) is an association of businesses that follow fair trade principles universally, so its presence on a product DOES mean that a company supports the highest level of commitment to fair trade. FTF also applies to products beyond food and beverage to include a wide range of goods.

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TransFair, focusing on commodities, food and beverages, certifies products and is the main fair trade food and beverage certifying organization in the United States. Major products certified include coffee, tea, chocolate, bananas, sugar, wine, spices and a variety of gourmet foods. Beginning its certification in the 1990s, coffee holds the largest share of fair trade commodity certifications. 85% of fair trade coffee is also organic.

According to TransFairUSA, the Fair Trade Certified™ label “guarantees consumers that strict economic, social and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product.”

TransFair principles include:
• Fair prices: Democratically organized farmer groups receive a guaranteed minimum floor price and an additional premium for certified organic products. Farmer organizations are also eligible for pre-harvest credit.
• Fair labor conditions: Workers on Fair Trade farms enjoy freedom of association, safe working conditions, and living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.
• Direct trade: With Fair Trade, importers purchase from Fair Trade producer groups as directly as possible, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and empowering farmers to develop the business capacity necessary to compete in the global marketplace.
• Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers decide democratically how to invest Fair Trade revenues.
• Community development: Fair Trade farmers and farm workers invest Fair Trade premiums in social and business development projects like scholarship programs, quality improvement trainings, and organic certification
• Environmental sustainability: Harmful agrochemicals and GMOs are strictly prohibited in favor of environmentally sustainable farming methods that protect farmers’ health and preserve valuable ecosystems for future generations.

TransFair USA licenses companies to display the Fair Trade Certified label on products that meet strict international Fair Trade standards.

Fair Trade Federation

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FTF on the other hand, is another major US association with a slightly different focus than TransFair. FTF is “an association of businesses and organizations who are fully committed to fair trade. FTF strengthens the capacity of its members, encourages the exchange of best practices, and raises awareness about the importance of choosing fairly traded products and supporting businesses committed to fair trade principles.”

FTF’s members are not just commodity-based businesses, but include crafts, gifts, household items, clothing, books, music and a variety of other goods. FTF does not actually certify goods, but maintains an affiliation with businesses and organizations that meet their established criteria for Fair Trade. FTF’s criteria are similar to TransFair, and are best described in the definition at the top of this page.

International Fair Trade Association (IFAT)

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In the late 1970s, US- and Canadian-based entrepreneurs who defined their businesses with the producers at heart began to meet regularly, exchange ideas, and network. This informal group would evolve into the Fair Trade Federation and formally incorporate in 1994. In 1989, the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) was founded as a global network of committed fair trade organizations, aiming to improve the livelihoods of disadvantaged people through trade and to provide a forum for the exchange of information and ideas.
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Fair Trade Labeling Organization (FLO)

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In 1988, as world coffee prices began to sharply decline, a Dutch NGO, Solidaridad, created the first European fair trade certification initiative. Similar labeling initiatives grew up independently across Europe within a few years. In 1997, these organizations created Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), an umbrella organization which sets the fair trade certification standards and supports, inspects, and certifies disadvantaged farmers. In 1999, FLO affiliates, TransFair USA and TransFair Canada opened in North America.

Roots
According to FTF, fair trade in North America began in 1946 with Edna Ruth Byler. As a Mennonite volunteer, Edna visited a sewing class in Puerto Rico and discovered local women’s talent for creating beautiful lace, despite extreme poverty. Edna carried the lace back to the US, selling the items to women. She then returned to Puerto Rico with the money earned, giving back to local Puerto Rican women. Edna’s work grew into Ten Thousand Villages, which opened its first fair trade store in 1958 and is now the largest fair trade retailer in North America.

World Fair Trade Day 2002 marked the first World Fair Trade Day (which will be May 10 2008 this year) in an effort to celebrate local artisans, heighten consumer awareness and strengthen partnerships among fair trader artisans/farmers and interested citizens around the globe.

Why Fair Trade?
Everyone’s consumer spending choices directly affect people’s lives around the world. The products we enjoy are often made in conditions that harm workers, communities and the environment. Increasingly consumers are demanding more information on how products are made, both in terms of the ingredients (including toxins, pesticides, and hormones etc), as well as the impact on the environment and human beings. Fair trade, and its certification bodies are an effort to regulate and promote this emerging industry to create more equitable and sustainable commerce worldwide.

Fair Trade Partners
The Fair Trade system benefits over 800,000 farmers organized into cooperatives and unions in 48 countries. Fair Trade has helped farmers provide for their families’ basic needs and invest in community development.

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Pangaya: Pioneer of Online Green Apparel to Close

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After four years of serving the e-commerce marketplace, Sean and Susan Bartlett recently announced that they will be closing up their Pangaya online shop. According to a correspondence with TreeHugger, the reason is that the company is not returning as much on their investment at this point, as hoped. The company will be missed by many, as a convenient, reliable source for some of the most fashionable, sustainable designs out there: e.g. Stuart and Brown, Ecoganik, Blue Canoe, UNDESIGNED, and others.

While on the one hand, statistics indicate that demand for organic cotton, and organic fibers such as bamboo, in general keeps increasing, the reality is that the green apparel market is still challenging to be profitable. Given the myriad of style, brand, price, convenience and other variables that factor into women’s clothing choices, it is no small feat to get that equation right for on-line shoppers. Being green, does not indicate sure fire success, and even being stylish does not, as Pangaya has proven.

Pangaya is a good example of a company that provided very stylish clothing at a very reasonable price in a convenient manner. If they could not create a sustainable business model, then what does this mean for others starting out or already in the early stages? Time will tell, but as demand for all natural fibers such as organic cotton, bamboo, soy, hemp and even organic silk and wool, increases, hopefully new companies will continue to enter the market and prove otherwise. We must thank Susan and Sean for carving the brave path with Pangaya, making it easier for others to follow in their footsteps.

All inventory will be marked down up to 80% until it is depleted, so buy your favorite designs now at Pangaya.

Ode to StonyfieldFarm!

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Stonyfield Farm (SF) is one of my favorite all-time companies. They make great yogurt, delicious ice cream and good quality milk. They happen to be the world’s largest supplier of organic yogurt, and had about $260 million in sales last year. They are profitable, incredibly GREEN and have been that way for the last 2 decades. SF is not only socially and environmentally conscious but they are ACTIVE participants in the environmental movement in at least half a dozen ways and pro-actively engage their customers in this movement as well.

While some might suggest Stonyfield is a deviation from Green Cotton, I would argue that this company is worth discussing for several reasons. Stonyfield is a GREAT example of a green company that has set a pioneering example since the 1980′s of what can be done to be more sustainable, green and socially responsible. Stonyfield’s latest move (in the news this week) also warrants some attention. Stonyfield just moved toward 100% organic (certified) in ALL of their product lines. For a company of this size (with worldwide distribution) this is no small feat!

What’s more, SF has figured out a way to do all this while remaining incredibly profitable, growing larger each year, and even investing 10% of all profits back into the environment!

I had the privilege of hearing Gary Hirshberg (President and CE-Yo) two years ago at a Baltimore City event on ‘farm-to-table’ issues at Symphony Hall. The event served to raise awareness on environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture as well as local producers and companies who actively engage in environmentally sustainable practices. Gary was one of the keynote speakers and is one of the most inspirational, hard-working and articulate leaders in the green space that I have met. What he has done with Stonyfield is a truly inspirational story for anyone working in this field.

So while SF was already very GREEN, this week, they went even-Greener by rolling out their 100% organic certified product lines. As such, Stonyfield has just stepped up the precedent for large companies with a whole new gold standard of practice.

Top Reasons why Stonyfield is Remarkable.

  • Active engagement in preserving the earth. Stonyfield is a socially and environmentally conscious company that ACTIVELY engages their customers in the environmental movement. They promote sustainable agriculture, and work hard to protect and restore the environment.
  • Lids with a Purpose. If you have never purchased a SF yogurt, you may not be aware that each lid (which does not have ANY plastic by the way) has a message, and an issue on it. In some cases you can send in the caps to your senator or some other environmental group, or you send them back to SF and they will send ‘en masse’ to Washington or elsewhere to support a particular cause. In return you also receive, things such as an environmental action mug, or a grocery bag (alternative to plastic) and other useful gifts.
  • Recycling. Stonyfield has an amazing recycling program. They have teamed up with Recycline to make plastic household products such as razors and toothbrushes with SF’s used plastic. In addition, with polypropylene #5 plastic packaging, we use significantly less plastic than if their cups were HDPE #2 plastic. Some communities, however, don’t recycle #5 containers. If you can’t recycle #5’s in your community, SF allows you to send your cleaned #5 plastic cups back to Stonyfield Farm and they will recycle them.
  • Profits for the Planet. Stonyfield donates 10% of their profits to programs that benefit the preservation of the earth.
  • In addition, Gary Hirshberg recently started a group called Climate Counts in which they reviewing and then scoring prominent companies and their contributions to climate change (+ and -).
  • BLOGs. Stonyfield Farm also has two blogs – staying up to date on key issues and making sure others are as well.
  • Wellness: they have a wellness space on their site, which includes information on health and nutrition and interesting nuggets on how to stay fit, healthy and strong. Dr. Bill Sears is a part of this Wellness space and offers useful tips to loyal customers on how to stay healthy.

Finally, there is SO much more on their site, that I am leaving out. I encourage you to check them out Stonyfield Farm.
In addition to all this cool stuff they are doing, Stonyfield is STILL an incredibly profitable company and successful on all fronts. In 2006, they had an estimated $260 million in sales, and are the world’s leading producer of organic yogurt (owned by the Danone Group). They sell organic yogurts, smoothies, soy-yogurts, ice cream and milk to supermarkets, natural foods stores and colleges nationwide.

Go Stonyfield! May there be many an eco-fashion company that humbly follows in your footsteps….

This Weeks Eco-Fashion Quiz – Take it Now!

Theme of the Week: BAMBOO

Three Questions:

1) What fiber is the closest to bamboo in terms of processing?

2) Name one reason why bamboo may not always be environmentally friendly to process?

3) Name one company that sells 100% bamboo clothing?

Be the first to answer all three correctly and you win!

If you answer any one question correctly you will also be featured in the ‘winners circle’.

Email your answers to ecotique@gmail.com or simply post a comment.

Greenward Eco-Boutique Arrives to Cambridge!

This brand new multi-purpose shop, Greenward, opened in Porter Square recently, with an all around green mission: to offer a wide range of eco-friendly products for the one-stop green minded shopper. From recycled materials to ‘recyclable’ products, organic products, handmade items, energy efficient items, biodegradable, AND educational products, the store covers the green gamut.All products are screened to meet at least one but ideally several of the above criteria, and fall into the following categories:

  • Gifts
  • Housewares
  • Jewelry
  • Cards and stationary
  • Handbags and other bags
  • Cosmetics
  • Books and magazines
  • Urban cycling accessories
  • Toys and games
  • Things for baby
  • Energy efficiency improvement items
  • Natural cleaning products

The store sounds like the ‘Target’ of green products (though not as big, which is kind of nice). Greenward appears to be an all around environmentally and socially conscious store that aims to do well for consumers, the environment and the community. I will be checking out the store in November– so stay tuned for a real-time review after Thanksgiving, but in the meantime, if you are in the area and are also looking for eco-apparel store, you might also want to check out Envi located on Newbury Street in Boston.

clipped from www.greenwardshop.com

Welcome!

Located
in Porter Square, Cambridge, Greenward is an independent
boutique specializing in eco-modern
goods
.
Our
hours:

Monday-Wednesday, Friday, Saturday: 11am-6pm
Thursday: 11am-8pm
Sunday:
12pm-5pm

For directions, click here.

To
read our latest newsletter, click
here
.

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