The producer networks become co-owners of FLO

May 25th 2007 will be remembered as an historic day for FLO. During the General Assembly, the Producer Networks, CLAC (Coordinadora Latinoamericana y del Caribe de Comercio Justo), AFN (African Fairtrade Network) and NAP (Network of Asian Producers) officially became full members of FLO.

This expansion of membership was only possible through a change in FLO’s constitution which was approved by FLO’s Meeting of Members in November 2006. The Labelling Initiatives (LIs) which were previously the only members of FLO, unanimously voted to adopt a new constitution allowing Networks of Fairtrade Certified Producers to become members of the Association.  Click here to read more.

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New CEO for Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International

A new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is being appointed to head up the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO).  FLO is the umbrella organization that unites national Fairtrade initiatives in 21 countries and producer networks representing Fairtrade Certified Producer Organizations in Central and Latin America, Africa and Asia. 

Rob Cameron was CEO and then executive chairman of the international communications company, Flag Communications, in Cambridge, UK.  As the driving force behind the company, he led it from a 3-person start-up to a multi-million pound business. In 1998, under Rob’s leadership, Flag branched out into corporate responsibility and sustainable development communications. Within a few years Flag had become a market leader in this area with multinational clients around the world, including continental Europe and North America. Click here to read more about the new FLO CEO.

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Ten years of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International

On April 21st 2007, Fairtrade Labelling Organizations (FLO) International turned ten years old. Ten years ago, the 17 Labelling Initiatives which were back then operating independently in their respective markets decided to come together  to create FLO, an umbrella organization whose mission was to set the Fairtrade standards, support, inspect, certify disadvantaged producers and harmonize the Fairtrade message across the movement.

A decade seems a short time but many things have happened and changed since then. Click here to read about the main highlights in FLO's history.

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A volunteer serves samples of Fairtrade wine in a store in Tallinn, Estonia
Fairtrade Launch in Estonia

The Fairtrade Certification Mark was officially launched in Estonia at the beginning of May. Estonia becomes the first Baltic country to offer Fairtrade Certified Products. Several products such as coffee, tea, sugar, fruits and wine can be found in one of Tallinn's central food stores Kaubamaja and some specialty stores. However, it is expected that all major retail chains in the country will offer Fairtrade products by the end of the year. Click here to read more.

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FLO Standards consultation with the African Fairtrade Network (AFN)
A moment of the standard workshop in Kampala, Uganda

One of the principal requirements of the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, with which FLO has been compliant since November 2006, is to ensure a broad participation of all interested stakeholders in the standard-setting consultation process.

As a direct result of FLO increasing the participation of stakeholders, particularly of producers, in setting the Fairtrade Standards a standard workshop took place in Kampala, Uganda from 16-18 April 2007.  African Fairtrade Certified Producers (through the Africa Fair Trade Network – AFN) had the opportunity to discuss Fairtrade Standards implementation with members of the FLO Standards Unit. Producers stated that FLO Standards are not always easy to implement and that FLO needs to do more to acknowledge the economic and social reality in which producers operate. FLO Standard Unit staff members received valuable feedback on how to make the FLO standards easier to implement while maintaining the credibility of the Certification Mark.

Producers clearly expressed that they understood their role and responsibility in complying with the FLO Standards as the bottom-line for a credible Certification Mark, which enables the expansion of the Fairtrade market.

Further face-to-face Standards Consultations are planned to take place over the next six months.

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Fair Trade General Assembly in St Vincent

Saint Vincent recently hosted the Fair Trade General Assembly. 150 participants gathered to discuss the values, preoccupations and challenges of Fairtrade farmers in the region.  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, along with the other islands that make up the Windward Islands in the Caribbean (St. Lucia, Grenada and Dominica), have long been suffering from falling market prices combined with increased prices for agricultural inputs, which has led to a massive decline in the numbers of farmers on the islands, from 25,000 in 1990 to around 8000 today.

 
However, the situation has improved since The Windward Islands National Farmers Association (WINFA) became a Fairtrade Certified Banana Producer Organization and started to export Fairtrade bananas in July 2000.  The words of the Chairman of the Saint Vincent Fairtrade National Committee reflect what Fairtrade really means for banana producers in the islands: “Fair trade has long promised us hope, and a longer life, as farmers in the banana industry. It is seen as the light in a darkened environment. The focus on education, sustainability, certification and environmental consciousness has a positive impact on the Fairtrade farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines".

In 2006, Fairtrade and the Fairtrade Premium money have contributed to substantial improvements in the lives of farmers and their communities. In 2006 alone, they have invested:

  • 3160 US$ in road improvements
  • 5732 US$ in 3 health facilities to improve the access and the quality of health services for populations of those areas
  • 42019 US$ in education, which was spent in 23 villages to support schooling activities.
  • 22149 US$ in the promotion of sports and cultural activities 
  • And 37035 U$ was spent in general community development initiatives (support for an orphanage, church activities, community and training centres).

Apart from the financial investments, the Fairtrade National Committee also organized a second “clean up campaign”: farmers together with community members cleaned their farms and rivers removing plastic bags and other waste.

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Putharjhosa tea garden reaps the benefits of Fairtrade
Putharjhosa school bus, purchased with Fairtrade Premium Money

On May 5 2007, Luuk Zonneveld, FLO Managing Director, Martin Rohner, CEO of the Max Havelaar Foundation in Switzerland, and Richard Anstead, from the Fairtrade Foundation in the UK, had the unique opportunity to participate in a meeting of Putharjhosa Workers Development Committee, the Joint Body of a Fairtrade Certified tea estate in India.

The meeting was an informative session about the benefits that Fairtrade has brought to the lives of workers in the garden. Jyoli Rai, representative of the Putharjhosa Workers Development Committee, opened the meeting with the following words: “previously, there used to be a big gap between the management and the workers, which led to misunderstandings and unhappiness, creating an unhealthy atmosphere. Fairtrade has been able to bridge this gap, creating a more favourable, cooperative environment and work culture, resulting in better understanding and sharing.” 

Fairtrade has also enabled the committee to make vital changes in the key areas of health, education and living conditions.  For example, mosquito nets have been provided to help alleviate the problem of malarial fever in the region, sanitation has been improved, free medical check-ups, eye treatments, and immunisation are now provided and an organic food service has been set up for workers.

The upkeep of Putharjhosa community’s future, like all others, depends on the younger generation. Hence, the Joint Body has invested in education through giving awards to the students with high achievement scores, payment of tuition fees for final examinations, buying books and stationery and repairing school buildings. A longstanding dream of the community, purchasing a school bus for children travelling to distant schools and colleges, has become a reality through Fairtrade.  Transport had always been a critical problem during the summer and rainy seasons.

Perhaps the most striking impact of Fairtrade has been the development of greater communal harmony, which is seen, not only in the united and cooperative committee meetings, but in the tea garden itself, which is a meeting place for people of diverse customs and cultures. As Jyoli Rai says “Cultural respect between people and understanding of each other’s cultures as well as sharing problems, can bring about communal harmony and relationship. Better relationships among people would create a better and favourable working environment, resulting in peace, happiness and prosperity of all.”  No doubt, the community will continue to work together to make positive changes with the benefits of Fairtrade.

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First Fairtrade churches in Finland

On May 15 2007, Fairtrade Labelling Finland officially recognized the first four “Fairtrade Parish Churches” in Finland. In order to be acknowledged as Fairtrade, the parishes must commit to using Fairtrade Certified Coffee and Tea within the framework of their liturgical activities, take active part in the Fair Trade Week and raise awareness on trade justice issues amongst their members.

Fairtrade Labelling Finland estimates that more than 150 Finnish parishes are already buying Fairtrade Certified Products but are not actively involved in promoting the concept. The idea behind this campaign is that churches become engaged in the promotion of Fair Trade, as is already being done in other Scandinavian countries. The reverend Juha Rauhala of the parish of Taivalkoski, in the north of the country, said "solidarity is a natural component of Christian faith. Our members very much appreciate this initiative”. “Sometimes, they ask if the coffee is also good and end up being agreeably surprised about the taste", adds Juha Rauhala, stressing that Fairtrade is now a fundamental part of the activities of his parish. Finns, of whom approximately 80% are members of the Protestant Evangelic Lutheran Church, are also the leading per capita coffee drinkers in the world. The sales of Fairtrade Products in Finland are still modest, but have being increasing rapidly in recent years, reaching 22 million Euros in 2006, which represents a growth of 71% in comparison to 2005.

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Only Fairtrade Coffee and Sugar at the International EXPO
Jerónimo Blasco Jauregui, Managing Director of Operaciones and Contents of EXPO Zaragoza 2008 sign the contract with Fairtrade Labelling Spain

All the coffee and sugar which will be consumed during the International Exhibition “EXPO Zaragoza 2008: Water for Sustainable Development” will be Fairtrade Certified. The international exhibition will take place in the city of Zaragoza, in Spain, from 11 June to 14 September 2008. The contract between the organizers of EXPO 2008 and Sello de Comercio Justo,  Fairtrade Labelling Spain, was signed on the occasion of International Fair Trade Day, on May 12 2007. The agreement ensures that all the coffee and sugar served in the facilities and cafeterias of the exhibition centre will be Fairtrade. The organisers expect 6 million visitors and the participation of 70-90 countries, as well as international organisations, NGOs and companies.

 “It is an important commitment from the organizers of the EXPO towards Fairtrade. Three years since the introduction of Fairtrade Certified Products in Spain, we believe this represents an excellent opportunity to increase the visibility of Fairtrade in the country” says Pablo Cabrera, Director of Fairtrade Labeling Spain.

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Next FLO Standards Committee

The next FLO Standards Committee meetings will take place in Bonn on the 18th and 19th of July, 18th and 19th of September and on the 4th and 5th of December 2007.

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First European Fair Trade Fair

The first European Fair Trade Fair will be held in Lyon, France, from February 1 to February 3 2008. The fair targets both professionals as well as members of the public. The fair intends to be a point of promotion for Fair Trade products, but also an exchange platform between the different Fair Trade initiatives. The presence of producers from the South will also provide the opportunity to discuss the tangible benefits of Fair Trade in their local communities. For more information about the Fair you can visit the website: http://www.salon-europeen-commerce-equitable.org.

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Anuga, 13th to 17th October 2007

Anuga, one of the most important trade fairs for the world of food and beverages will take place in Cologne, Germany, from 13th-17th October 2007. FLO's member Labelling Initiative in Germany, Transfair Germany, will have a stand at Anuga, which will also be attended by FLO staff members.

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Ten years of FLO International
  • In ten years, the number of Fairtrade Certified Producer Organizations tripled and Fairtrade sales experienced an average growth of 35% per year. Attracted by Fairtrade’s success with consumers, many big companies and major supermarket chains have joined Fairtrade during the last decade: Mc Donald’s, Coop and Migros in Switzerland, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s in the UK, and Starbucks in the US are only a few examples of companies which decided to offer to their consumers the Fairtrade option. This would have seemed impossible to the three dedicated people who started working for FLO 10 years ago. It would probably also have seemed incredible to the farmers and workers of the roughly 100 producer organizations which formed part of the system back then.
  • Ten years ago, there were no inspections and certifications as such. FLO-CERT did not exist back then. It was only on September 15th 2003 that FLO International transformed its former certification department into a separate legal entity: FLO-Cert GmbH (Ltd.). The main reasons for the foundation of FLO-Cert were to make Fairtrade certification operations more transparent and to fully comply with ISO 65 (the worldwide quality standard for certification organisations). FLO-CERT  is today a professional and independent certification body.
  • Ten years ago we did not have the professional standards we currently have. Nowadays, FLO Standards procedures for Standards setting are compliant with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice on Standard Setting. In essence, the relevance of the ISEAL code is to bring a high degree of credibility to the standard setting of private organizations such as FLO.
  • Another important achievement in the short history of FLO was to be able to provide direct support to producers in the field. This was possible through the creation of the Producer Business Unit (PBU) in 2005 and the increase of the number of liaison officers based in the producer countries.  Nowadays, there are 25 FLO liaison officers covering over 40 producer countries. With the development of the liaison structure, Fairtrade is acquiring a presence in more and more producer countries and moving closer and more available to producers.

In summary, in only ten years, FLO has become an organization with global outreach. The Fairtrade system is now perceived as a worldwide reference for companies that want to do ethical business with producers in developing countries. As Barbara Fiorito, FLO Chair of the Board, said on the occasion of FLO's ten anniversary: "The challenge is that we do not lose the personal trust of producers and that they continue feeling that Fairtrade Labelling is a system they own. In that sense, we are unique in comparison with other certification schemes. Ten years after our foundation, we continue to be a system of and with producers".

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