Producer ownership of Fairtrade moves to new level

Members of the
General Assembly

14 October 2011



In an historic decision, members of the global Fairtrade system voted unanimously to increase producer representation in the General Assembly to 50 percent, making producers half-owners of the global Fairtrade system.

The vote marked a further strengthening of Fairtrade’s unique ownership model; networks of certified producer organizations have been co-owners of the system alongside labelling initiatives from consumer countries since 2006. The new shared ownership model means that producers will now have an equal voice in the highest decision-making body of Fairtrade.

“This decision is path breaking, it’s a very progressive approach,” said Bharath Mandanna, the interim chair of Network of Asian Producers (NAP).  “We hope to get the message across to consumers on the importance of producer voices in any ethical certification scheme so that this decision will bring major growth.”

The General Assembly decides on membership issues, approves annual accounts, and ratifies new Board members and changes to the constitution. In the future the Assembly will include an equal number of delegates from Fairtrade labelling initiatives and the producer networks with each delegate holding one vote.

In the past, each member organization in the Fairtrade system received a vote in the General Assembly; hence the 21 labelling initiatives had greater representation than the three producer networks. The new decision balances the assembly and puts Fairtrade on a new level representing producer interests.

“This reaffirms our faith in multi-stakeholder governance and sits alongside widescale efforts to streamline the Fairtrade system so that our processes work more effectively with greater speed for every actor in the system,” said Ian Bretman, Executive Vice Chair of the Board of Fairtrade International, who led the governance review project.

The General Assembly also voted to welcome South Africa as a full member in the Fairtrade system. This is the first producer country to also be recognized as a labelling initiative. Fairtrade sales in South Africa grew exponentially in 2010, reaching an estimated R 18,4 million, up from R 5,7 million in 2009. For more information on the great change for Fairtrade South Africa, visit their website.

Along with these votes, the past year has seen a number of changes as the global Fairtrade system strives to broaden, strengthen and deepen impact for all involved.

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