Hi all!

My friend Anna runs The Massai Brand: http://www.maasaibrand.com/
We met at a COFTA, (http://www.cofta.org/en/en/index.asp), conference in May last year.
She wrote me a very excited email yesterday telling me that The Massai Brand had just been fair trade certified by COFTA's big sister, the WFTO, (http://www.wfto.com/).
It took her 2 years of back and forth monitoring and filling out countless documents, not to mention having to backtrack accounting documentation, (and when working on the ground in Africa this is not necessarily as easy as opening up a folder on your computer).
This got me thinking.
Fair trade is a social movement that has its roots in marketing strategies. An early 2007 window display in Barney’s in New York City advertised for their new range of ‘insanely sustainable’ clothing.
Would a closer inspection of the actual clothing factually justify this bold statement?
With so many accreditations being promoted, do they hold the same validity as a department store’s self made acclamation?
Is it really justified for companies to only work with certified producers, even though the majority of small cooperatives do not have access to this information?

Basically, I would really like to hear your guys' opinions on fair trade certification.
Is it necessary? Does it work?
Is it a matter of just educating the consumer?
Personal stories, opinions...let's hear em!

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Replies to This Discussion

i personally think its about education to both consumer and for yourself as a business owner...just by going down that length route of getting accredited surely you learn so much about the whole area of fair trade and ethics and sustainability. It may not be necessary but consumers tend to buy by brands and by names associated with that label...so if you have soil association labelling on your garments this helps the sell...

purely my opinion but i think it makes people trust you more

would like to hear other opinions too!!
It's not an easy black or white answer. Basically if you dont have transparency and know exactly who is making your product and how, then accreditation brings some peace of mind. Arguably the smaller producer groups and co-operatives need help / access to market the most, and havent a hope in hell of having the organisational or financial resource to get accredited! On the flip side the sad truth is that from a marketing perspective, FairTrade certification by FLO is best recognised. This is frustrating for us in East Africa -we've been trying to get them to set up FairTrade cotton there for over 2 years, but still nowhere close. All the other accreditations we hold are similar to (and in some cases better than) FairTrade. Won't bore you with details here, but happy to give you more info if you want it.

Your friend is doing some great work, and the story of giving the maasai in the mara a way of sustainable living is a great one, so she should have loads of material to overcome lack of accreditation. We loved the products on the site (and actually thats the most important thing!!)

BTW - I'm looking for some carved wooden beads to attach to tops we're making in Tanzania. Need 500 - 1000 (not maasai beads these ones are hand carved). Can she help?
Hey Prama.

I am sure Anna can help.
She has her email up on the website.

I agree with both you, and Jacqueline in the sense that yes, a label does give confidence and reassurance.

My question though that is that justifiable, especially when attempting to source ethically, to smaller producers who do not have access?
Do you think it's perhaps an idea to have smaller accreditation 'branches' that could umbrella certify these smaller coops?
Rather like 'the king's new clothes' its not really the done thing to question Fairtrade too publicly. It seems to an accepted fact that its a good thing. However the Adam Smith Institute are very critical of Fairtrade. This is what they say


Unfair Trade argues that for all its good intentions, Fairtrade is not fair. Firstly, by guaranteeing certified farmers a minimum price for their goods, it can distort local markets leaving other farmers even worse off. Secondly, only about 10 percent of the premium paid by consumers actually makes it to the producer, which makes it an inefficient way of helping the poor. Most importantly, Fairtrade does little to aid economic development, focusing instead on sustaining farmers in their current state. Although helpful to some in the short term, this holds back mechanization, diversification, and moves up the value chain. And by requiring farmers to form co-operatives, Fairtrade rules reduce opportunities for labourers to get full-time, permanent jobs and can foster corruption. The report also details the range of alternatives available to ethical consumers, which may be better options than Fairtrade.
Hi all! Thanks Megs for this forum and discussion....inspired by me!? Ohhhwaaaa! :-)

Ok, for the record, dont get it wrong; we are now COFTA members...and on our way to become FTO certified...but that is another 2 years of monitoring and assessments. Phu... COFTA is the first entry port into this very strict process and it has been two years even here of filling in forms, getting our paperwork in order and cleaning up our own backyard. Its all about the details folks!

I guess Im still quite PRO the certification. It really helps you to "get it together". There are no short cuts. And FTO seems to have the credibility everyone wants. Consumers are catching up on these ethical trends, however...it is a bit a a jungle with different brands, statements and logos....so unless you are into Fair Trade its easy to get mixed up by all this.

As Jaqueline says, I also believe in the story. People want authentic products where they can feel that they are part of something bigger and better. Im reading a great book about our craving for the real and real experiences...will post the name of it tomorrow....Im running out of online time here....

One last comment for now. We really need to lift the look of Fair Trade... Im so tired of being ethical and Fair Trade is something of maybe less quality and design. In fact, I think WFTO should have a product development and design criteria.


I am completely agree with your point about product development and design criteria.
Not to shut anyone out, and perhaps this could be another sort of department of certification agencies, in order to abolish the general perception that fair trade is just crafts and a niche market and can never survive in the mainstream market.

What was the name of the book? Not that I have any extra time to read anything else right now...between work and thesis research, oh my...but it would be good to have!

Also, for those interested, next Tuesday the 23rd EFF will be hosting a Certification and Standards Seminar at 6pm at Rich Mix.
Hope you all can make it!!!
Hey Megs! And all others.

I can highly recommend a book called:

Authenticity - brands, fakes, spin and the lust for real life.
By David Boyle, ISBN: 0 00 717964 2
Is it possible to get a copy od the documents of this Certification and Standards Seminar ? being in South Africa doesn't mak it easy to attend events like this :-)
perhaps I could do a similar seminar here with he necessary support of the EFF?
Just an idea...
Guillermo Lapidus
Cape Sun Fair Trade- South Africa.
How much does Fairtrade Certification actually cost?
Hi David

It depends on your yearly turnover. Once certified by WFTO you pay an annual fee.
Hi everyone,

As a newbie, here I am coming to this discussion late in the day. Another "hat" I wear is providing consulting services to those seeking to source things like coffee more ethically and that took me to a farm certified by Fairtrade and I can tell for a fact that it left tears in my eyes.

I accept that as consumers it is an issue of trust and as such Fairtrade is recongised and trusted by consumers. Sadly the certificates do not tell the whole story especially those that can't be compensated for. I will not bore you with the whole list but if you have time drop by on either of my blogs for more details

http://ethnicsupplies.blogspot.com/ or http://ethnicsupplies.wordpress.com/
I like to ask questions.
Why is 'Fair Trade' necessary in the first place? Is it because of restrictive trade practices in the EU and USA? If so why not lobby to have these removed and introduce Free Trade.
How much does Fair Trade Certification cost?
Are Fair Trade producers represented within the management structures of the Fair Trade movement?

Maybe someone could answer these


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