Mike Gidney – Authenticity, Legitimacy and Certification

Rhodes Trust Lecture Theatre

Mike Gidney used to work for Traidcraft – who trade in certified and non-certified Fairtrade goods e.g. there are some rubber gloves available in Tesco with Traidcraft mark but not Fairtrade mark.  He now works for Fairtrade Foundation.

“There is no one thing of Fairtrade” – just because Traidcraft has its model here how can we say that the Waitrose Foundation…which is not certified Fairtrade…how can we say they’ve got it wrong?”

Who are we to say what is fair and what is not?

Copycat schemes – claims of fairness, ethicality, sustainability e.g. Ethical Tea Partnership.  Line on their packs which would say “working towards a more ethical tea industry”.  What does that mean?  As a consumer it says nothing about what they’re trying to do.

How do we navigate this labyrinth?

What is authentic Fairtrade?  The heart is the promise made to producers and consumers.  The Fairtrade mark “is a guarantee of a better deal for FT producers”.  A guarantee that this product makes a difference.

Real Fairtrade, authentic Fairtrade, will have a multi stakeholder background, owned and managed and delivered by people who have reached some kind of partnership and understanding.

We know too much now just to trust companies who we think we like.

Internationally agreed Fairtrade standards / internationally argued Fairtrade standards – these are regularly debated. Questions like do we need to change this aspect and are we learning from what we’re doing have to be asked all the time.

International Fairtrade Standards:

- standards for small farmers
- standards for hired labour
- generic trade standard
- product specific standards
- minimum prices
- Fairtrade premium levels


- physical inspection of the operations
- desk audits of the operations’ documentation
- desk audits of the traders’ flow of goods reports (purchases, sales, stocks, payment etc)

Increasing our focus on impact is essential.

Impact for smallholders and workers:

Gerado Camacho, Coocafe – “The Fairtrade price allows us to survive as coffee farmers. It covers our costs of production, lets us send our kids to school, buy clothes and keep a roof over our heads.”

Arturo Gomez, Coopetrabasur: “Before I was someone that took a box and loaded it on to a train. That was my only responsibility. I was just a farmer, who was an intermediary. In this new system I have become an internation businessman.”

Studies being undertaken at the moment:

- Sector studies: bananas, cotton
- Country studies: Malawi (tea, sugar and nuts)
- South Africa (hired labour and smallholders, fruit, wine and rooibos)
- Focused work on issues such as gender and diversification

Tesco saw a double digit sales growth when they switched to Fairtrade tea and coffee, Cadburys Dairy Milk is also seeing growth, but it’s too early to say how big. It’s extraordinary that Fairtrade sales are holding up even in a recession when other ethical brands are not.

PWC report on sustainability in 2008 – is it working for consumers? They found consumers clearly want to buy in to sustainability. 58% find fewer sustainable options available than they would like. This is Fairtrade, organic, ethical trade, the whole sector. “Consumers are now at the point where they increasingly expect sustainable attributes to be an inherent part of the products and services they buy.”

Fairtrade is a grassroots social movement:

- 450 Fairtrade towns
- 100 Fairtrade Universities
- 5500 Fairtrade faith groups
- 3000 Fairtrade schools

Public opinion in the UK is hugely in favour of sustainability.

In a recent survey 95% of people would recommend or be positive about Fairtrade.

What do we do next? How do we retain authenticity in this increasingly crowded ethical market? We have to really focus on our integrity. We must not let the mainstreaming of Fairtrade to water down the standards. Now corners will be cut on bringing Starbucks in to the system. What Cadbury’s is doing in Fairtrade is really good – they’re bringing scale and volume. But on a much smaller level what Divine Chocolate are doing is a whole leap ahead, not in volume but as a model.

How do we maintain that level of trust – 95% of the people? It’s a major risk for us but equally the most fantastic opportunity.

Fairtrade is still an incredibly small part of trade. We are still absolutely tiny, our market share is in small percentage points across the product range. But what the trust figure and the PWC Report is telling me is that there is a substantial public mandate in the UK for us to act to make Fairtrade fairer for everybody.

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