Distinguishing Committed Brands
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Distinguishing Committed Brands Through Major Eco-Social and Fair Trade Certifications

The following information is intended to help consumers, retailers, and businesses understand how well different fair trade and eco-social seals distinguish committed brands (that is brands that are committed to building a just economy in all policies and practices) from conventional brands (that is brands that offer some certified products or ingredients but in other supply chains and practices show a lack of commitment to fair trade principles).

Meets FWP’s expectations and/or is a model program in this area
Acceptable policy that at least meets current industry standards, but there is room for improvement
Problem area/red flag that needs immediate improvement


FWP overall assessment of how well program distinguishes “committed brands” (that is brands that are committed to creating a just economy in all policies and practices and through all supply chains)

For each question, hover over a seal below to display on answer…

Fairtrade America: Committed brands and small-scale producers are not distinguished in any meaningful way. However, because producers have more decision-making control in this system, it tends to benefit them more than some other seals and therefore be more attractive to some committed brands.
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: Committed brands and small-scale producer groups are not distinguished in any meaningful way and in fact it is a very real possibility that some brands offer only one or two products/ingredients that are “fair trade” and those are purchased from large-scale operations and no smalll-scale producer groups even benefit.
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): Fair for Life is a program designed to support committed brands. At the farm level large-scale producers may qualify, but the program is designed primarily to support small-scale producers.
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: Committed brands and small-scale producer groups are not distinguished in any meaningful way and in fact it is a very real possibility that some brands offer only one or two products/ingredients that are certified and those are purchased from large-scale operations and no smalll-scale producer groups even benefit.
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: Eco-cert is a program designed to support committed brands. The program prioritizes small-scale producers and has additional requirements for large-scale producers.
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: Committed brands are not distinguished in a meaningful way and eligibility is not restricted to small-scale producers even in key sectors like coffee. Due to the program’s limited scope, committed brands are unlikely to chose Utz, particularly if they offer multi-ingredient products.
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: Though a small program, SPP is the only seal that is created by small-scale producers themselves and is used exclusively by committed brands. Seeing this seal on a product indicates that you have found both a committed brand and organized small-scale producers.
 
FWP rating:


Is there a policy in place that restricts eligibility and would prevent a company with a history of labor, environmental, or other abuses and/or a company that operates largely in opposition to fair trade principles from participating in the program without first committing to good labor and environmental practices?

Fairtrade America: No.
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: No
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): Past history is not explicitly addressed, but all processors and handlers are required to have good environmental and labor practices currently.
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: No
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: Yes. Eco-cert clearly states certification cannot be used to cover up unethical practices and criteria for eligibility includes absence of human rights abuses at all levels of company including parent company and subsideries
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: No
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: Past history is not explicitely addressed, though current and future actions are covered under a code of conduct and a significant commitment to small-scale producer co-ops is required which makes it difficult for large, “bad actor” multi-nationals and brands to participate
 
FWP rating:


Is there a minimum percentage of a product or ingredient in its total product line that a brand needs to commit to before using the seal?

Fairtrade America: No
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: No
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): Primary processors and handlers with over 10% FFL product must be registered and audited. Brands with less than 10% total product are not eligible for the use of the full seal.
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: No
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: No
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: No
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: Yes, 5% by end of second year with commitment to increase 5% each year to 25%
 
FWP rating:


To what extent does the program verify that a company has fair practices and policies outside of certified supply chains?

Fairtrade America: The Trade Standard oulining company’s obligations for using seal only covers relationships within the certified supply chains
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: The Trade Standard oulining company’s obligations for using seal only covers relationships within the certified supply chains
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): Fair for Life looks at the full supply chain for certified products as well as the treatment of employees for all brands and processors as well as farm. However there is no evaluation of non-certified ingredients supply chains.
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: Very limited. Ingredients deemed high risk in a product carrying a seal are evaluated and may require a sustainable sourcing plan if they are not certified. However, this only covers environmental risk for crops grown on tropical plantations, is not comprehenisive, and and does not include social indicators.
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: Brands must achieve social responsibility criteira as a pre-requisite to fair trade product certification. However, there is no evaluation of non-certified ingredients in supply chains.
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: Utz only has programs for coffee, tea, and cocoa and does not look at any other supply chains or company practices.
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: All participants must sign a code of conduct commmitting to core principles like transparency and sustainability even outside the SPP framework. However, there is no evaluation of non-certified ingredients supply chains.
 
FWP rating:


Is certification restricted to small-scale organized producers?

Fairtrade America: It is restricted for some key products such as coffee and cocoa, but not for other products. Bananas, tea, and flowers in particular come almost exclusively from large-scale production. Farmers do control half of the votes in the general assembly and may have some ability to ensure small-scale farmers benefit from the program despite the general lack of eligibility restrictions.
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: No, FTUSA’s Fair Trade For All initiative specfically seeks to expand “fair trade” to large-scale agriculture and unorganized producers.
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): No, but there are extra requirements for larger-scale producers including a requirement that they be committed to worker empowerment. Small-scale producers do not necessarily need to be democratically organized.
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: No
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: No but there are additional eligiblity criteria required if the producer is large or the producer group contains less than 60% small-scale producers by number or area. Small-scale producers do not necessarily need to be democratically organized.
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: No
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: Yes, a clear definition for small-scale is given and only 15% of a co-ops farms can be larger, and those only twice as large as the definition.
 
FWP rating:


In what ways are committed brands distinguished from conventional brands in the market through this certification program?

Fairtrade America: There is no easy distinction. Because brands using this seal need to disclose the total percentage of ingredients in composite products, committed brands in general may be found to have in general higher percentages of ingredients in products and use the seal on more products, but by looking at a single product, there is no way to know whether the brand itself is commited to fair trade. In the US brands must use certified ingredients if they are available, but see note below on the global fair trade sourcing partnership.*
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: As with Fairtrade America, there is no clear distinction for committed brands by looking at a single product. To compound this problem, there is also no way to distinguish small-scale co-op producers from large estates or unorganized small-holders in coffee, despite the fact that expansion in this area was extremely controversial. FTUSA also no longer requires all available certified ingredients to be used in a product.
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): Fair for Life is set up in such a way that only committed brands who meet basic social responsibility requirments can qualify.
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: There is no distinction.
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: The use of this symbol would indicate a committed brand since elegibility is restricted by its eligibility criteria.
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: There is no distinction. Committed brands, particularly those offering multi-ingredient products, are unlinkely to choose Utz due to the limited scope of ingredients included in their program.
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: The use of this symbol would indicate a committed brand as a significant amount of product is purchased through this system and brands comply with a code of conduct
 
FWP rating:


Which committed brands carry this seal on products?

Fairtrade America: Divine Chocolate, Equal Exchange
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: Alter Eco
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): Equal Exchange, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Theo Chocolate, Alaffia, Guayaki, Canaan Fair Trade
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: None
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: Not yet significant in North American market
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: Not yet significant in North American market
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: Equal Exchange, Dean’s Beans, Just Coffee Co-op, Just Us Coffee Roasters, Discovery Organics, Santropol and Ethiquable (France).
 
FWP rating:


Which “bad actor” brands carry this seal on products?

Fairtrade America: Globally by Fairtrade International: Nestle, Dole, Green and Blacks (Kraft)
 
FWP rating:

Fair Trade USA: Honest Tea (Coca-Cola), Naked (Pepsi), Hershey
 
FWP rating:

Fair For Life (IMO): None
 
FWP rating:

Rainforest Alliance Certified: Chiquita, Dagoba (Hershey), Hershey’s Bliss, Nake Juice (Pepsi),
 
FWP rating:

Ecocert: Not yet significant in North American market
 
FWP rating:

UTZ Certified: Not yet significant in North American market
 
FWP rating:

Small Producers: None
 
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Why is this important?

Fair trade at its core is a movement centered on small-scale farmers and producers who are organized democratically. Fair trade markets should be reserved for these farmers; conversely larger scale farms already have an advantage in the marketplace if they are able to enter the fair trade system may cause unfair competition to small-scale farmers. (Note: many larger scale farms hire significant numbers of workers who would benefit from fair labor programs and incentives, though these programs typically look different than fair trade certification, which is understood to be a small-scale farmer movement.)

At the same time, many mission-driven companies and committed brands face higher costs than and steep competition from brands that are more focused on their bottom line. To allow these brands to thrive and ensure maximum benefit to farmers, it is important that certification programs give a market advantage to small-scale farmers and committed brands. As this analysis shows, a pound of coffee carrying a FTUSA or Rainforest Alliance seal purchased from a plantation by a company who also buys significant amounts of coffee on the conventional market looks identical to a pound of coffee carrying the same seal from a brand who only buys from small-scale farmers and is committed to fair trade principles in all aspects of business. This is likely why no committed coffee roasters use either of these seals.

*Fairtrade International recently introduced a new Fairtrade Sourcing Partnership program which would allow a seal, similar to the current fairtrade mark, to be used if 100% of either sugar or cocoa are included, even if no other ingredients are certified, and even if the sugar or cocoa account for less than 20% of the total product. Fair World Project has expressed serious concerns about this program and continues to monitor it. However, because Fairtrade America has committed to restrict participation in this program to off-pack claims it is not a focus of this analysis.

To learn more:
Visit our committed brands page.


Updated: January 28, 2014 (Please note this information is up to date based on our own research using publicly available information as well as direct correspondence with programs. Any corrections or questions can be directed to certifieranalysis@fairworldproject.org.)