You will notice a new Fair Trade logo on our website and packaging this month. There have been some changes in the fair trade system this year, and, we are now licensed with a different certifier: Fair Trade USA. Their fair trade logo looks like this.
So what is going on? And what does it mean?
Well in short, the fair trade system now has multiple third party certifiers, each with slightly different criteria. This is similar to the organic system in which there are well defined criteria on what is required for a product to be organic and there are several certifiers (Ecocert, Procert, and many more) who audit processes and records to ensure compliance with that standard.
It differs from the organic system in that the criteria for fair trade used by Fair Trade USA are now slightly different than those used by Fair Trade Canada. The differences between them are subtle and are motivated by a differing views on how best to meet the goals of Fair Trade. The goals remain common.
As licensees, we are disappointed by the confusion this disruption that has been caused by this shift. While there seems to be rather vicious debate between advocates of these 2 systems (and the Rainforest Alliance actually), we remain focused on uncertified product as the problem: where workers have no rights, poor pay and no security and where small producers have poor access to credit and to markets. We believe effort should be spent on increasing the market for socially certified coffee rather than debating the merits of the various social responsibility certifications all of which have made significant improvements in the lives of real people.
From our perspective, the most important aspect of any certification including one for social responsibility, is that
- it has published criteria that are developed openly and can be seen to be achieving their stated goals
- the criteria are verified at every step by an independent third party
- that chain of custody is unbroken so every party from producer to consumer willingly commits to third party verification
This brings us to why Birds and Beans, a Canadian family owned company, has landed with Fair Trade USA. As the Canadian leader in certified Bird Friendly® coffee we are not able to purchase our raw coffee from the list of FTO coffees offered by local importers (as almost all other Canadian roasters do). We have had to build our own global supply chain.
Our supply chain is complex and specialized and we have partnered with several like minded buyers in the USA to meet our goals. Our buying partners have always been licensees of Fair Trade USA. In order for us to preserve the new chain of custody requirements, we have joined them and now report through Fair Trade USA.
We are offering the same coffees grown, purchased and certified under the same conditions as we always have. The only thing that has changed is the logo. In the future, we hope to be able to add coffees sourced from our estate farmers (who were who had been ineligible for fair trade certification as independent family farms) as Fair Trade Certified.