Posts Tagged 'certification'

How Fair is Fair?

In an article yesterday, BusinessWeek explored a debate going on about the rise of fair trade certifications and labels.  Some fair trade organizations are criticizing the main US FT label, TransFair, for expanding the FT labeling program so quickly and widely in the past few years.  The label once mostly applied to coffee and tea has spread to fruits and flowers, and TransFair would like to take it into other industries, too, like garment production.

These critics say that giving fair trade certifications to large farms and plantations goes against the spirit of fair trading, given the history of worker exploitation on some of those  farms.  Plus, what with all the new groups being investigated for the labels, there aren’t enough oversight resources to make sure that the farmers, and farms, stay fair.

TransFair disagrees:

Part of the problem Rice and Wal-Mart face is the difficulty of applying the same standards of equity and economics to different types of crops. While half of the global production of coffee comes from small farms, it takes a larger operation to compete in bananas, tea, cut flowers, or sugar. “The disadvantaged majority would be locked out of the market if I were to look for only small farms for bananas and tea,” says Rice.

It’s a reasonable disagreement, and an important discussion to have while the movement is growing- but don’t let it dissuade you from buying Fair Trade.

Products that are fair-trade certified are made under better working conditions, and direct more resources back to the folks who make them than otherwise would ever happen.  It’s a sustainable way to grow both business and community resources.  But one definition of “fair” isn’t going to work everywhere.  Maybe they could have a label that was just for “Fair Enough”- or better yet, some kind of label information about what practices the group producing the item worked under.

In the end, though, I’d rather TransFair push their certification programs too far than not far or fast enough.

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