Fair Trade Certification and What It Means
Here we chat to Winfried Fuchshofen PhD, the Director of the Fair Trade Sustainability Alliance (FairTSA).
FairTSA certify the Lucy Bee products as Fair Trade, collecting our Fair Trade premiums and they monitor and audit this to ensure funds are paid by us and spent accordingly and accounted for. This guarantees transparency to all, plus the way in which FairTSA works offers a respect for the local producer communities and families.
Q: How is FairTSA different to the Fair Trade logo often seen on products?
Winfried: There are several things that differentiate our (FairTSA) approach to Fair Trade from other company’s approaches.
- Firstly, we are the only Fair Trade association that works with certifiers worldwide as full partners which basically means that we ourselves are not the inspection or certification business. We work with the ISO17065 accredited organic certifiers – they do the work for us and they are trained by us.
What that typically means is that the organic inspection and Fair Trade inspection are carried out at the same time by the same person. That means we have zero carbon inspection, there is no additional travel and the inspector knows the culture and, in most cases, they know the operation already. They know the people so they can do a more thorough job than somebody who is flown in and doesn’t know what’s going on locally.
With FairTSA, you are working with one team and you have both certifications done at the same time but in a typical Fair Trade scheme they are totally parallel, meaning somebody else comes in and they have a totally different set up and different documentation.
At FairTSA, we build our system on an existing organic certification. There is something called an internal control system which is necessary when you have lots of small farmers and the inspector cannot go to each individual farm. This way the inspector controls the internal system which controls the farms. We have created a manual based on this in order to make life for the producers as easy as possible without cutting corners in terms of content and requirements but cutting out a lot of administration costs.
- The other thing we are doing is what we call project-based accountability. That means that we are open with our fees and with our premiums. In some Fair Trade programmes, you don’t even know what the premium is or what the licensing is. We are totally open about that as we believe when it is Fair Trade it should be transparent.
We have developed a system that really makes project-based accounting a reality. This has been hard and often producers do not realise that the work they are doing means something to somebody else. It is hard to understand the impact this has on the consumer, for example, when you are in the Amazon and you’re creating something that really helps the small farmers to make a different living than planting coca (as is the case with Lucy Bee Starseed Sacha Inchi Omega Oil). It’s a huge distance in a philosophical and mental way.
To communicate this is one of our biggest challenges, to actually say “this matters”. This is where we are putting most of our efforts in getting this communication going because we realise that it’s not easy.
- I think there is a requirement, if you pay a premium you have the right to understand what is happening in the producer communities. Over the years we have become way stricter and if we don’t get the correct documentation then we may suspend the operation if the producers don’t communicate with us properly.
- We do free producer webinars so any producer can dial in and ask us questions on an ongoing basis. It’s not just a requirement, you have to comply with this. However, it is also to support “I don’t know what this form means” so they can receive quick answers to all the questions they might have, meaning no excuses.
- Our licensing fees are extremely reasonable when compared to all of our competitors.
- We try to treat small and big producers evenly, however that’s not the norm anymore. The reason is there’s no money in the smaller producers. We have a very clear commitment to all sizes of producers and this is what differentiates us from other Fair Trade programmes.
We have producers where we lose money, however we find that their programmes might be fantastic so we want to support it. Then we make an internal decision and say, ‘go ahead, we will support you and we’ll sit down and re-evaluate what we’ll do and how we’ll move forward’.
Q: Have you seen a rise in consumers being more aware of Fair Trade and producers wanting to be Fair Trade?
Winfried: Yes, generally speaking, I would say there is a very clear trend of consumers becoming more aware of Fair Trade.
Migration has become a big problem. A country can only accommodate so many people and so we have to make conditions in the country of origin, liveable for these people. For us, Fair Trade makes a big contribution in this regard.
As a consumer, I can really make an impact, and I’m not just buying a product to make sure the worker gets their minimum wage. I’m also contributing to the producer community that makes their life worthwhile.
I think this should be a consideration for ALL products. If you want to have equitable relations, then all people should have good living conditions and we see ourselves as a part of that movement.
Q: Marketing can be quite misleading on products. We have noticed some products say ‘fairly traded or ethically sourced’ but with no Fair Trade logo. What are your thoughts on this?
Winfried: I find this kind of marketing confusing at best and misleading at worst. If there is no Fair Trade certified logo then the chances are that the product is NOT Fair Trade.
Always ask the company:
- How is the product sourced?
- What work are you doing with the producer?
- What premium do you pay towards ‘fair trade’ and is this accountable?
If we turn to Lucy Bee for these questions:
- How is the product sourced? = Lucy Bee insist on organic and Fair Trade products and FairTSA give each potential supplier a ‘health check’ before any products are purchased, to ensure their credibility and Fair Trade certification.
- What work are you doing with the producer? = FairTSA audits each Lucy Bee supplier on an annual base, using local expertise, as mentioned above. Progress can often be slow in some of the producer areas and FairTSA sets ups a local committee (which includes the producer, farmers and workers), to decide how the FT premiums are used. This inclusive system means funds are used to their best possible advantage and also allows for a greater degree of accountability, since the producer also has to submit a proposal at the end of each year, which is then evaluated.
- What premium do you pay towards ‘fair trade’ and is this accountable? = Lucy Bee pays a 10% premium for the raw materials plus an additional 0.75% of total sales to FairTSA. The 10% is used for fair wages and sustainable community projects, while the 0.75% is to allow FairTSA to its work. Is this accountable? ABSOLUTELY, YES. Unlike ‘fairly traded’ Lucy Bee is obligated to pay these premiums and is fully accounted for and audited.
Q: Do you ‘practise what you preach’?
Winfried: I do. FairTSA is a relatively small organisation and we place a huge emphasis on accountability and fairness. For example, any essential business travel is always made as economically as possible, including accommodation for overnight stays.
By using products certified by us, we will all continue our path to supporting a fairer world for all, creating new possibilities and better living conditions for rural communities around the globe.
About Lucy Bee
Lucy Bee is a lifestyle brand selling food, skincare and soap products all completely free from palm oil and with minimal use of plastic. Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, organic, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and empowering people to make informed choices and select quality, natural products for their food and their skin.