Fairtrade Environmental Standards: focus on development

27 February 2007

Bonn, February 27th, 2007.

Many producers have been raising concerns about the current Fairtrade Environmental Standards, whether as part of the Generic Small Farmers' Organizations Standard or the Generic Hired Labour Standard. The current standard requires producers to be fully compliant by April 1st, 2007 and producers feel this not to be feasible in some critical areas of the standard.

The Africa Fairtrade Network (AFN) during a workshop in late November elaborated a detailed analysis and provided this to FLO. In parallel, FLO PBU and FLO-Cert also analysed the standard and provided their results which were quite similar to those of  the AFN. Analysis papers were sent to the Standards Committee (SC) in early December 2006. Based on this input the SC acknowledged the urgent need for a review of the standard and the implementation of a revised standard prior to April 1st, 2007.

FLO Standards Unit (SU), with further input from FLO-Cert, put forward a detailed proposal for a revised standard to the SC for its meeting on February 20th/21st, 2007. The Standards Committee decided unanimously to approve this proposal and asked SU to make the necessary changes to the applicable standards. The amended Standards will be published on FLO website in the coming week.

The revised standard has introduced two main changes:

  • A lot of minimum requirements are moved to progress requirements for Small Farmers’ Organizations, to a considerably lesser extent also for Hired Labour.
  • Some exceptions are granted for certain prohibited materials in specified products and following specified procedures.

These changes carefully shift the focus of Fairtrade standards to a more developmental approach while maintaining the high profile of the standards and thus Fairtrade’s message. However, FLO acknowledges that changes in environmental practices and management control need time at producer level and that in some clearly defined areas current practices require some exceptions from the generic rules.

With this decision producers are able to continue their efforts to improve environmental performance in a feasible way. In the coming weeks FLO-Cert will provide to producers more detailed information on how the revised standards will be implemented in practice.

However, the Standards Committee recognized the urgent need for a robust review of Fairtrade environmental standards and has asked the Standards Unit to undertake a review project during 2007. The objective is to give to all stakeholders the chance to provide information and to contribute with comments to other stakeholders’ views, neither of which was possible during the quick review process of the last two months. It is expected that the outcome will be a broadly supported realistic and achievable environmental standard that also complies with both the Fairtrade environmental objectives and the Fairtrade development approach.

The project with its aim to implement new standards in April 2008 will start with a review process elaborated by the Standards Unit. Initial stakeholder input is expected as early as April and a final draft of the standard is planned for the December meeting of the Standards Committee for decision-taking.

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