This brief video post is the second in a series of short video posts explaining important terms or certifications associated with cocoa farming and sourcing. In this post, I will answer the question, “What is Fairtrade?” Other posts in this series will address UTZ certification, B Corp certification, ethical sourcing, direct trade, sustainable agriculture, and the California Transparency Act.
Each post will follow the same basic format. I will explain what each term or certification is; when, where, and why it was established; and why it may be important to you.
When Roy and I created The Go to Chocolate Store, we had a lot to learn about chocolate, especially related to cocoa farming practices, supply chain management and tracking, and human rights. We began to question terms and certifications that we saw on some but not all chocolate products.
At first, we thought that these terms and certifications were just marketing tools to be ignored, but we were wrong. These certifications and terms are important indicators of the quality of the chocolate and of the ethical values of the chocolate maker. We’ve learned that there is more to world-class chocolate than cocoa content.
I believe that many of you reading this post have the same questions and concerns about chocolate that Roy and I had. So, in this and the next several video posts, I will address some of the most important terms or certifications you may encounter.
What is Fairtrade?
According to the Fairtrade Foundation, a charity-based organization in the United Kingdom that works to empower disadvantaged producers in developing countries,  Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Most importantly, Fairtrade standards prohibit child-labor and Fairtrade organizations actively fight against this practice when it is uncovered.  The injustices of conventional trade discriminate against the poorest, weakest producers. Fairtrade addresses these injustices and empowers these poor producers to improve their positions and have more control over their lives. 
When was Fairtrade Certification Established?
There were several attempts to market fair trade products in the 1960s and 1970s. The Max Havelaar labeling initiative in 1988.  The Max Havelaar seal was established “to license existing roasters and retailers who complied with its fair- trade criteria”.  Four benefits in the early model of the fairtrade initiative were:
A guaranteed minimum price to protect producers from any potential falls in the global market.
An additional 10% of the market price for their investment in social and environmental projects.
A 60% advance to producers to reduce the pressure of selling their product “immediately after harvest when its price is lowest”
A commitment by roasters to eliminate any other parties within the supply chain, with the aim of dealing more directly with producers.
Fairtrade International, also known as Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International or FLO was established in 1997. The establishment of Fairtrade International increased demand for Fairtrade products. This association is made up of three producer networks, nineteen national labelling initiatives, and three marketing organizations. Each promoting and marketing the Fairtrade Certification Mark in their countries. Eighteen European countries as well as Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are home to Fairtrade labelling organizations. FLOCert, the audit and certification body for Fairtrade Standards, was created in November 2003 as an independently governed subsidiary of Fairtrade International. 
Fair trade certified sales increased by 15% from 2008 to 2009. In 2011, 827 producer organizations in 58 developing countries were FLOCert Fairtrade certified. 
Why was Fairtrade Certification Established?
Fairtrade is a foundation whose stated goal is to help producers in developing countries achieve better trading conditions. Members of the movement advocate the payment of higher prices to exporters, as well as improved social and environmental standards.
Where was Fairtrade Certification Established?
Due to the resourcefulness of Mexican coffee farmers, the first fair trade labeling initiative, Stichting Max Havelaar, was launched in the Netherlands on November 15, 1988, by Nico Roozen, Frans van der Hoff, and Dutch ecumenical development agency Solidaridad. Its goal was to create more equality between coffee producers and roasters. 1992, the Fairtrade organization was founded by Michael Gidney. Under the fair-trade initiative, coffee producers following various social and environmental standards could make above market price for their crops.
Fairtrade International started with the coffee industry. Now cocoa, fruit, cotton, flowers, tea and a range of other products are also covered. Unfortunately, the buyers of fairtrade products make up a niche market. This makes marketing for Fairtrade a challenge. Still, as of 2016, 1,411 producer organizations in 73 developing countries were Fairtrade certified. This represents over 1.66 million farmers and workers. 
Why is Fairtrade Certification Important?
As I stated on my previous post, eating fine chocolate is an indulgence, usually well-deserved, and depending on the chocolate, sometimes expensive. The nutrients in cocoa have some great health benefits and positive mood enhancing properties. Read “Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate for Men, Especially Husbands“. But, to be honest, I eat chocolate as much because I love it as for its health benefits. Don’t you? And we should be able to enjoy eating fine chocolate without guilt. In my opinion, eating Fairtrade certified chocolates is another way to feel good about this small indulgence.
If you read Roy’s post, “Are the World’s Finest Chocolates World-Class?”, you know of Roy’s and my concerns about the sourcing of ingredients used in some chocolate products. We have made the personal choice to only promote or purchase chocolate products made with ingredients that have been sustainably grown and harvested without the use of any forced labor.
Fairtrade Certified is one of several different labels that you may see on the chocolates you purchase here at The Go to Chocolate Store. This is strong indicator that the ingredients in your favorite chocolate have come from sustainably farmed and slave-free sources.
Now I know that none of the certifications that I discuss will end all poverty or corruption in the modern world. I have read that the poor will always be with us, and I have also been told that there will always be corruption somewhere. Maybe this is true. I hope not.
I know that the cocoa industry is not immune to corruption, and I am not suggesting that we stop eating chocolate. The demand for chocolate is great and increasing. But if choosing Fairtrade or similarly certified chocolates whenever possible can help to lift one family or small community out of poverty and slavery, I think it’s an easy choice to make. What do you think?
By purchasing fine chocolates that are Fairtrade certified or similarly certified, you are making a powerful statement in favor of environmental protection, public safety, and human rights. So, you can enjoy your favorite fine chocolates while knowing that you are making a positive difference in the world.
Representing over 1.66 million farmers and workers, Fairtrade Certified is one of several indicators that the ingredients used in your favorite chocolates were grown with ethical and sustainable farming methods. Fairtrade Certified is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. Fairtrade addresses many of the injustices of the poor cocoa farmers and workers and empowers them to improve their positions and have more control over their lives. 
Established in 1997,Fairtrade International is made up of three producer networks, nineteen national labelling initiatives, and three marketing organizations. Each promoting and marketing the Fairtrade Certification Mark in their countries. Eighteen European countries as well as Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are home to Fairtrade labelling organizations. At The Go to Chocolate Store, we offer chocolates with Fairtrade or comparable certifications or programs as evidence that the chocolates you purchase from us are made with ingredients from ethically and sustainably farmed sources.
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- “What is Fairtrade?”. Fairtrade Foundation, 2018
- “The Fairtrade Foundation”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2018
- “Fairtrade Certification”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2018
- “Fairtrade International”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2018
- “Six Ways Fairtrade Strengthens Human Rights”. FLO International. 2018
- “FLOCert”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2018
- “Fairtrade Fights Child LaboR”. Fairtrade America. 2019