What is Fair Trade Certification?
- by Christofer Oberst
OAKLAND, CA - Coffee, nuts, and now produce. More and more grocery stores are labeling their produce with a “Fair Trade Certified” label, but what is it, and what kind of impact does it make for your business?
Hoping to learn more about Fair Trade Certification, I spoke with Jenna Larson, Senior Manager of Communications at Fair Trade USA. She tells me that demand for responsibly-grown fresh produce is thriving.
“Demand for Fair Trade products is growing, as is awareness,” said Larson. “Today, more than 55% of the U.S. population is aware of the Fair Trade Certified label (up from 38% in 2012), and volumes are growing as well.”
In fact, volumes of Fair Trade Certified produce sold in the U.S. grew 37% in 2013, making it one of Fair Trade USA’s fastest growing and most diverse product categories, Larson noted. There are now 23 varieties of Fair Trade produce available.
The Fair Trade program ensures that farms around the world adhere to the best social and environmental practices, and it gives consumers the opportunity to give back to these communities.
“The Fair Trade standards cover things like safe working conditions, no child or forced labor, regulations on work hours and overtime, maternity leave, elimination of harmful chemicals, grievance procedures, freedom of association, and trainings on worker’s rights,” said Larson.
Also unique to Fair Trade is the Community Development Premium. This is an additional amount of money that is paid directly into a farmer – or worker – controlled bank account. Through a democratic vote, these Premiums are invested in much-needed community projects, like educational stipends, environmental training, healthcare services, and productivity investments.
“In Southern Mexico, for example, a group of workers have voted to spend their Premiums on a mobile health clinic, which will serve the rural communities that many of the migrant laborers come from,” Larson tells me.
This is just one of several stories farm laborers have told Fair Trade USA. Hector Pulgarin, another farm worker in Colombia says, “My family used to live in a small apartment with a dirt floor in the bad part of town. Thanks to Fair Trade, we now live in the new home built with the community premium. I no longer have to fear for my wife and children’s safety.”
It’s incredible what Fair Trade has done for farm laborers in 70 developing countries across Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America, and the Caribbean. With more retailers doing what they can to promote Fair Trade Certification among their suppliers, consumers can be assured the produce they’re buying has been grown in responsible, safe, and sanitary farms.