Perhaps you have wondered what goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the Fairtrade Mark on a product is justified.
If a product has the Fairtrade Mark, it must meet international Fairtrade standards.
Fairtrade International (FLO) is the organisation at the centre of the certification process. It is responsible for setting and maintaining these international Fairtrade standards.
The standards cover three broad areas: social development, economic development and environmental development.
Each standard is developed and agreed through research and through consultation with members of the Fairtrade scheme: farmers and workers, traders, NGOs and national labelling organisations.
To achieve Fairtrade certification, producers must meet 2 standards: the generic producer standards and the product specific standards.
There is one set of generic producer standards for small farmers’ organisations and another for commercial farms and other organisations which permanently employ hired labour. Each is designed to address the specific characteristics and structure of this type of producer.
You are probably familiar with many of the food products for which product specific standards currently exist: cereals (rice, quinoa), cocoa, coffee, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, honey, nuts, prepared and preserved fruit and vegetables, sugar and tea.
The non-food products with product specific standards may hold a few surprises: flowers and plants, fibre crops (including cotton), gold, sports balls and timber.
Moving along the supply chain, traders who buy Fairtrade certified products must also meet a set of standards, the Trade Standards. These include requirements relating to quality, shipment conditions and terms of payment.
FLO-CERT is the second key organisation in the certification process. It is responsible for the practicalities of certifying producers against the standards, and for regular inspections to ensure that they remain compliant. It also certifies processors and exporters in the producer country.
Outside of the producer country, the products are certified either by FLO-CERT or by the local labelling organisation. The third key organisation for us is therefore The Fairtrade Foundation, the UK’s national labelling organisation, responsible for certifying Fairtrade products here in the UK.