Changes in the use of certification and accreditation of Fair Trade images

Photo Credit: CAFOD - CAFOD and Oxfam campaigners at the Sainsburys AGM

Changes in the use of certification and accreditation of Fair Trade

Changes in the use of certification and accreditation of Fair Trade: a Statement by the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. 

There has been some significant media coverage in recent weeks of changes being introduced by some key brands to how they promote their commitment to Fair Trade and sustainability. This has most notably been in relation to Cadbury’s Dairy Milk products and Sainsbury’s own brand red and gold label tea. 

What does the Scottish Trade Forum support?

The Scottish Fair Trade Forum, as a network organisation, is not solely committed to promoting Fairtrade Mark certification. We are also a network member of the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) and we support fairly traded initiatives that adhere to the principles set out in 'A Charter of Fair Trade Principles'.

Some products have the Fairtrade Mark to indicate that they have been produced to these standards. Other businesses and products are part of the WFTO guarantee system to show that they adhere to these principles. In other cases, we become aware that products are being produced adhering to the principles but have not applied for various reasons for accreditation. The key feature for all these products and businesses is that they follow the principles.  

What is happening at Sainsbury’s?

Recently, Sainsbury’s announced that it was no longer going to have Fairtrade certification for its gold and red label tea. The reason why the Forum take issue with this decision by Sainsbury’s to move away from the use of the Fairtrade Mark on their own label tea is that we do not see any evidence that their new approach will allow producers to decide for themselves how to invest any premium. One of the principles of Fair Trade is that producers are empowered through capacity building and we do not believe that this is the case in the Sainsbury’s Foundation model as it appears that the equivalent of Fairtrade Premiums will be taken out of the control of the farmers and the producers and decisions will be made by a Board in London. 

The importance of capacity building and empowerment

We have sought clarification and reassurance on the issue of empowerment from Sainsbury's but as yet we have not received such reassurance. You can read our correspondence with Mike Coupe, the CEO of Sainsbury's here.

Our key concern is not that Sainsbury’s are no longer going to use a particular certification for some products but that it is labelling the products ‘Fairly Traded’ when it does not seem to meet all the principles of Fair Trade. This can only lead to consumer confusion and lack of clarity and transparency. 

Key to Fair Trade is the empowerment of farmers and workers. In the case of this Sainsbury’s initiative, the representatives of the farmers and workers do not support the initiative. 

How does this compare with the changes at Cadbury’s? 

This is in contrast to the Cadbury’s example, where the evidence from the Fairtrade Foundation is that the cocoa farmers support the initiative.Cadbury’s have taken the decision to use their own initiative, Cocoa Life. Their products will no longer carry the Fairtrade Mark as they will not have Fairtrade certification. The evidence from the Fairtrade Foundation is that through Cocoa Life, the farmers and producers will not be any worse off than they would have been with Fairtrade – the farmers will receive a competitive price for the cocoa, additional loyalty cash payments plus further investments in projects and support to improve their farming practices and implement community action plans. 

What do we advise people to look out for when shopping? 

Our advice to consumers would be to look for products or businesses that have some form of Fair Trade accreditation such as the Fairtrade Mark or WFTO guarantee system or that they can be sure from their own knowledge are fairly traded by adhering to the Principles of Fair Trade. 

In brief, we do not support the Sainsbury’s Foundation plan as it seems to be reversing empowerment for producers and we will continue to support the representatives of the farmers and workers in opposing this initiative. On Cocoa Life, there seems to be evidence that farmers and workers will be not be any worse off and that many more farmers and their communities will benefit and also that the initiative has the support of the representatives of the producers. However, we do not see Cocoa Life as a Fair Trade scheme and therefore we do not believe that it is within our role to promote it. 

We will continue to prioritise the WFTO Guarantee system, Fairtrade Mark products traded by Fair Trade Organisations and fairly traded products where there is evidence that they adhere to Fair Trade principles. 

These are complicated and changing times for certification and accreditation – that’s why it is important to use core principles to guide us.