On January 1st, 2012, Fair Trade USA (FTUSA, formerly TransFair USA) became an indpenendent fair trade certifier and is no longer the US arm of the global fair trade system administered by Fairtrade International (FLO). Fair World Project (FWP) has closely monitored the developing situation of fair trade certifications and certifiers, including FTUSA, FLO and IMO’s Fair for Life program.
FWP released a public statement on October 3rd, 2011 to address the FTUSA’s resignation from FLO. Pending concerns remain with respect to FTUSA’s governance model, operational transparency and plans to grant fair trade certification to coffee plantations. Based upon initial drafts of FTUSA’s multiple ingredient product policies, FWP declared on 0ctober 19th that it would not recognize FTUSA as a reputable certifier as of January 1st 2012 unless key provisions in the policy were corrected. In particular, FWP objected to the lowering of the fair trade content threshold to 25% for a product to bear FTUSA’s “whole product” seal and 10% for its “ingredients” seal, and the allowance for multiple ingredient products to receive the FTUSA seals by sourcing the minimum 10% or 25% fair trade (FT) content, even if FT forms of remaining ingredients in a product were commercially available. Over 2,000 FT advocates sent letters to FTUSA objecting to this draft policy.
FTUSA released its revised draft Multiple Ingredients Product Policy on January 18. FWP is pleased that FTUSA has incorporated feedback from various stakeholder groups on important issues, especially with respect to raising the whole product seal threshold to “100%” (actually 95% with allowance for non FT minor ingredients similar to the organic program) and ingredients seal to 20%, and reinstating the commercial availability requirement to source FT forms of ingredients in products even if the minimum 20% FT content threshold is reached. The commercial availability requirement in particular is a crucial market driver to expand markets for fair trade producers. However, there are a number of critical areas for improvement.
1) Labeling. FTUSA’s draft policy for products using the “Ingredients” seal (Products containing a 20% threshold of Fair Trade Certified content but less than 95%) as currently conceived is misleading and needs to be improved. This fair trade seal in and of itself on product packages conveys to consumers that the product is at least majority fair trade. FWP urges FTUSA to either confine the Ingredients seal to the back of packaging or require specific FT ingredients be highlighted on the front of packaging via a “Made with [specified FT ingredients]” statement and, insofar as the FT seal appears on the front of packages that the language on the “Fair Trade Ingredients” seal should change to “Contains Fair Trade Certified Ingredients” (emphasis added). FWP has created several mocked up versions below of the “Ingredient” label that would satisfy our demand:
2) Product Transition timelines. FTUSA draft policy provides a 2-year transition period for licensees who are currently using ingredients in non-fair trade form for which there are commercial FT sources available, to begin using the fair trade forms. FWP believes that a 1-year transition period is sufficient to source FT ingredients and update packaging.
3) Transparency regarding commercial availability and exemptions. FTUSA’s draft policy has detailed steps to assist companies in sourcing FT ingredients, including conditions under which companies may receive an exemption for FT ingredients that are not commercially available. The draft policy is suitable but lacks transparency with regard to which companies and products receive exemptions. FWP recommends that FTUSA post publicly on its website requests for exemptions and the rationale and timeframe for any exemptions granted.
Pending the final outcome of Fair Trade USA’s draft policy for multiple ingredient products, Fair World Project will reconsider recognizing FTUSA as a valid fair trade certifier.
Take action and urge Fair Trade USA to uphold the integrity of the fair trade movement and to revise its draft policy for multiple ingredients products to incorporate FWP’s concerns over labeling, product transition timelines, and transparency regarding commercial availability and ingredient exemptions.