Campaigning NGO Banana Link, as part of the Europe-wide Make Bananas Fair campaign, recently visited several Fairtrade banana and pineapple plantations in Ghana.
This heartening story shows how the combination of Fairtrade certification, empowered and organised independent trade unions - and, increasingly, organic production - can really transform the environmental and social prospects for fruit plantations.
In mid-November, a joint press release declared a new “global partnership” between Fairtrade and Cadbury, the brand owned by global snack company Mondelēz International.
They announced that Cadbury Dairy Milk will no longer be Fairtrade certified. Instead, all Cadbury products will be brought under Mondelēz International’s in-house sustainability programme, ‘Cocoa Life’. The Fairtrade logo will be replaced with the Cocoa Life logo, and Fairtrade will become an implementing partner for Cocoa Life, with this partnership being indicated on the back of pack.
It has been seven years since Cadbury Dairy Milk became Fairtrade certified in the UK. It was a pivotal moment – perhaps the pivotal moment – in the ‘mainstreaming’ of Fairtrade in this country. At a stroke, 350 million chocolate bars a year were certified, bringing the Fairtrade Mark into every corner shop in the country.
Fairtrade campaigners celebrated and the future looked promising, with Cadbury chief executive Todd Stitzer saying that he planned to convert their other chocolate brands to Fairtrade "as soon as we can do it". It felt like perhaps Cadbury had re-engaged with its progressive Quaker roots, bringing a new 21st century ethics into the heart of its business model.
A year later, the company was the subject of a hostile and controversial takeover by US multinational Kraft, though not before they had converted the Green & Blacks range owned by Cadbury to Fairtrade. Although Kraft promised to honour Cadbury's Fairtrade commitments, it was clear that there would be no further expansion of Fairtrade certification as had previously been hoped. In 2012, Kraft split into two companies, and Cadbury became a brand owned by a new multinational food company called Mondelēz International.
The new joint announcement from Cadbury and Fairtrade unsurprisingly describes the new deal in glowing terms as a “ground-breaking commitment” and an “evolution of our partnership”. But for Fairtrade campaigners, it is mixed news at best.
There's an interesting short interview over on Confectionery News with Oliver Nieburg. He talks to Marina Vanin, global cocoa director at Fairtrade International, about their plans to review the pricing and strategy for Fairtrade cocoa. Fairtrade International is conducting a study in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire to inform the review.
Oliver points out that Barry Parkin, head of procurement for Mars and chair of the World Cocoa Foundation, has said that cocoa incomes may need to quadruple to make cocoa sustainable. Marina is cautious and does not say whether the Fairtrade price and premium will rise after the review.
There was an interesting piece in the Guardian profiling a school campaign to make sure the bananas supplied through the government's school fruit scheme were Fairtrade.
The headteacher at Polesden Lacey Infant School encouraged pupils to explore the Fairtrade movement as part of the school's commitment to green issues. She helped the children write a letter to the school's fruit suppliers.
The company replied in May, directing them to the banana supplier, who in turn passed them to the Department of Health. Eventually they were informed that schools could not put a label on the fruit because "Fairtrade" was a brand name. The children were not impressed – without the Fairtrade stamp they felt unsure about the fruit.
There has been much talk in Fairtrade over the last few years about “scaling up with integrity” or “mainstreaming” – i.e. growing the Fairtrade system by working with big corporate players while also ensuring that the core values and social, economic and environmental standards of Fairtrade are not compromised.
Although there have been some original principles that have fallen by the wayside – the basic Fairtrade proposition has remained the same. It is a product-based certification system, in which all ingredients in a product that can be Fairtrade must be Fairtrade, with guaranteed prices for producers, including a minimum price, a Fairtrade premium and an organic premium, social and environmental standards, and obligations on traders and importers.
Despite the rise of numerous alternative certification systems, Fairtrade has mostly stuck to its guns and kept the same model, arguably the gold standard of ethical certification marks. And a campaigner movement of activist consumers – particularly in the UK – has responded to that gold standard and voted with their wallets.
That now looks set to be shaken up, as Fairtrade International have launched a new business model that gives companies a wider and more flexible range of options for engaging with the Fairtrade system. The model is called ‘Fairtrade Sourcing Programs’ and currently applies to three commodities: cocoa, cotton and sugar.
This week, the EU passed a new public procurement directive that will allow public authorities across Europe to make a deliberate choice for fair trade products.
The new law confirms a European Court of Justice ruling which clarified that public contracts can award additional points to products "of fair trade origin".
Compliance with environmental, social and labour obligations are now enshrined in the principles of procurement law, which is a great step forwards.
The new public procurement directive is expected to enter into force in March 2014 and EU Member States will then have two years to translate it into national law.
The European Parliament's Fair Trade Working Group is chaired by British Labour MEP Linda McAvan.
It's Social Enterprise Day today and we've produced a new Powerpoint presentation for teachers.
The presentation showcases social enterprise Liberation, a Fairtrade nut company owned by the farmers who grow and gather the nuts.
Fair Trade USA, until recently known as Transfair, has announced its resignation from membership of the international Fairtrade labelling system, effective from the end of December 2011.
“FLO and Fair Trade USA share a belief in the importance of empowering producers and workers around the world to improve their lives through better terms of trade. However, as we look to the future, we recognize that we have different perspectives on how best to achieve this common mission.”
- Fair Trade USA and FLO joint statement, Thursday 15th September 2011
The intention appears to be for Fairtrade International (FLO) and Fair Trade USA to collaborate as best they can to maintain continuity for producers and companies, but it is clear that most players in the movement would rather this had not happened.
The Fairtrade Foundation recently pubished a useful "commodity briefing" on Fairtrade and Cocoa, combining a clear and succinct overview of the global cocoa industry with a case for why Fairtrade is needed.
The broad picture it paints is one of growing global demand for chocolate, driven by rising incomes in emerging economies, increasingly outstripping available cocoa supplies. In West Africa, the productivity of cocoa farming is low, with a lack of access to finance and technology, outdated farming methods, and no incentives to improve depleted soil or replace ageing trees.
Cocoa farmers in West Africa are likely to receive 3.5 to 6.4 per cent of the value of a chocolate bar, compared with around 16 per cent in the 1980s. Over the same period, the manufacturers' share has increased from 56 to 70 per cent and the retailers' from 12 to 17 per cent. Often their children can see no future in cocoa: the average age of a cocoa farmer in West Africa is 51 years.
Trading Visions, in collaboration with the LSE International Development Department, held a well attended public discussion debate on Tuesday 1st March 2011. The topic was 'Has Fairtrade asked for enough?'.
You can watch and listen to the panellists and the discussion below.
Deborah Doane is Director of the World Development Movement, which campaigns for justice and equality for the world's poor. Deborah was a founder and trustee of AntiApathy, and recently joined the Board of the Fairtrade Foundation.
"From the mainstream players, I think Fairtrade can demand more, without losing them... because of the incredible power of the movement behind it." - Deborah Doane
Adam Brett co-founded Tropical Wholefoods, and is a director of Fullwell Mill. He has been a self employed entrepreneur since 1990, working on the development of fair trade food businesses in Uganda, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Zanzibar and Zambia. He is a Trustee and Judge for the Ashden Awards for Renewable Energy.
"I think [supply chains] are absolutely destined to be inefficient, in an extraordinary way. And conventional economics - of ‘oh yes everything's going to work out, we're going to end up with a nice optimal situation where we're going to live in the best of all possible worlds’ - is completely childish! We actually have to grab our supply chains by the proverbial soft parts and squeeze, to make sure that they work as well as we can possibly make them work." - Adam Brett
Julia Clark is a consultant. As Head of Marketing at Tate & Lyle Sugars, she led the switch of the company’s entire retail sugar range to Fairtrade in 2008. At the time this was the largest ever commitment to Fairtrade by any major UK food or drink brand.
"The people at the bottom of the supply chain are not only disenfranchised and disempowered by the system, their own communities haven't taught them how to grasp opportunities and make much of those opportunities. They're small cane farmers because they don't know how to be anything else. And Fairtrade is starting to teach them how to be business people." - Julia Clark
Robin Murray is an industrial economist and a co-founder and board member of Twin Trading. Twin has established a number of pioneering producer-owned Fairtrade companies, notably Cafédirect, Divine Chocolate, Agrofair UK and Liberation Nuts.
"We're trying to create a different kind of economy. An economy not mediated by markets, but where markets are lodged within a reciprocal or mutual economy." - Robin Murray
"We buy organic Fairtrade dried mangos for about 6 euros a kilo, when it gets to the shop it costs about 25 euros a kilo. So about 22% is going back to the producer. 65% goes straight into supermarkets' pockets." - Adam Brett
"The retail power [of supermarkets] is extraordinary - and it drags us all down with it." - Deborah Doane
The whole debate is also available as a podcast.