There has been much talk in Fairtrade over the last few years about “scaling up with integrity” or “mainstreaming” – i.e. growing the Fairtrade system by working with big corporate players while also ensuring that the core values and social, economic and environmental standards of Fairtrade are not compromised.
Although there have been some original principles that have fallen by the wayside – the basic Fairtrade proposition has remained the same. It is a product-based certification system, in which all ingredients in a product that can be Fairtrade must be Fairtrade, with guaranteed prices for producers, including a minimum price, a Fairtrade premium and an organic premium, social and environmental standards, and obligations on traders and importers.
Despite the rise of numerous alternative certification systems, Fairtrade has mostly stuck to its guns and kept the same model, arguably the gold standard of ethical certification marks. And a campaigner movement of activist consumers – particularly in the UK – has responded to that gold standard and voted with their wallets.
That now looks set to be shaken up, as Fairtrade International have launched a new business model that gives companies a wider and more flexible range of options for engaging with the Fairtrade system. The model is called ‘Fairtrade Sourcing Programs’ and currently applies to three commodities: cocoa, cotton and sugar.
This week, the EU passed a new public procurement directive that will allow public authorities across Europe to make a deliberate choice for fair trade products.
The new law confirms a European Court of Justice ruling which clarified that public contracts can award additional points to products "of fair trade origin".
Compliance with environmental, social and labour obligations are now enshrined in the principles of procurement law, which is a great step forwards.
The new public procurement directive is expected to enter into force in March 2014 and EU Member States will then have two years to translate it into national law.
The European Parliament's Fair Trade Working Group is chaired by British Labour MEP Linda McAvan.