Sunday, July 22, 2007

Do we really need a Fair Trade label?

I was been talking a lot about logos and labels this weekend. The Board of the Fair Trade Federation has decided against using its logo on products because it doesn't want to misrepresent that the product's supply chain has been audited according to Fair Trade principles. While all 260+ members of FTF have passed a screening of their business practices indicating they are 100% Fair Trade, the organization doesn't go to origin to check on the actual production methods. This differs from the guarantees of TransFair USA and other labeling initiatives of the Fairtrade Labelling Organization, whose function is to certify that the supply chain of a pound of coffee or bunch of bananas, to use two examples, adheres to Fair Trade standards.

Customers get confused about these differences sometimes and at a book signing at the The Culture Shop in Takoma Park, DC there was a lot of back and forth about whether or not consumers want and need a label signifying how a product was made or a company run. Recently the
Wall Street Journal pointed out that some Fair Trade companies are even stepping back from promoting their Fair Trade credentials because it is the product, not that principles, that drive purchasing.

I'd be curious to hear what others are thinking these days. Two years ago or so a group of coffee companies in the US left the FLO system for a variety of reasons. We could go over those again, but I'm actually most curious about what consumers what and need (if anything) from labeling. Your thoughts?

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