An Open Letter from CEO on Changes to the Fairtrade System
You may have seen the joint statement on our website that Fair Trade USA (FTUSA) has decided to leave the global Fairtrade system and end its membership with Fairtrade International (FLO) as of 31 December 2011. (Read the Q&A here.)
I, the staff at Fairtrade International, and the entire global Fairtrade network sincerely regret FTUSA’s decision to pursue its own approach, rather than continue working within the global system. It is a decision they have taken themselves, and we have to respect their choice.
But please be reassured that Fairtrade International and our members are as dedicated as ever to building a global Fairtrade system, and will work tirelessly with our partners and supporters to achieve this. We truly believe that we are stronger by working together.
Now that FTUSA is pursuing its own approach (see our response to this here) we are developing an operating model to ensure that all businesses and organizations that want to be a part of our global Fairtrade family can do so. But we also want to take stock, and listen to the views of our many stakeholders – producers, NGOs, companies, trade unions and the grassroots Fair Trade movement – to determine the best way to meet everyone’s needs.
Our key concern is providing farmers and workers with continuing opportunities to improve their livelihoods. We remain firmly committed to the integrity of our multi-stakeholder model, and the unique, central role producers play in governance and decision-making bodies.
The FAIRTRADE Mark is the world’s most widely recognized ethical certification mark and we believe that our producer-focussed approach is key to that success. Producers worldwide are not only valued for their opinion, but are co-owners in the Fairtrade system. In fact, in October we look forward to announcing exciting governance changes that will further strengthen the producer voice.
Our investment in one international Fairtrade label and a coherent single system have made our operations more efficient and cost-effective. Through our central organization and network of members, we’re able to offer coordinated producer support (with regional offices and over 50 field officers), a set of internationally agreed Fairtrade Standards recognized by many as the “gold” standard, consistent trade audits, and a global system respected for its integrity.
Membership fees from our national Fairtrade organizations are invested where they are most needed, and that often means in the developing world. For example, last year 42 percent of Fairtrade International’s budget was invested in services for producers, by far the greatest part spent in the south where it belongs. A further 11 percent was invested in creating new Standards and improving existing Standards. Our Producer Certification Fund provided quarter of a million Euros to help producers cover their certification costs. And we’re investing in new markets for Fairtrade products, such as Brazil and South Korea.
In the coming weeks we will be listening to our stakeholders to work out future plans and how US-based partners can work more closely with the international Fairtrade system. You can also find out more in our Q and A section.
If you have any further questions or comments, please do drop us a line at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing your comments and views.
Finally, I should like to thank our many staff members, supporters and friends who have expressed their support and commitment to our international system and are dedicated to ensuring that we move on to an even better and more united movement that achieves our aim of trade justice for all.
CEO, Fairtrade International
PS Recent consumer surveys show that almost 6 in 10 people across 24 countries have seen the international FAIRTRADE Mark and recognition exceeds 85 percent in some markets. Keep an eye out for our full GlobeScan consumer survey results, to be released in October.