The Fairtrade and organic movements
Between 2008 and 2009, retail sales of fairtrade-certified products in Australia and New Zealand increased by 58%, while the number of buyers of organic products doubled in the five years up to 2008. More products have both fairtrade and organic certification, meaning you can be doubly sure your chocolate is ethically tasty.
Fair trade chocolate
The fairtrade movement was started in the 1950s by not-for-profit importers wanting to alleviate poverty and improve the livelihoods of struggling producers. Over the years, alternative trade organisations began popping up all over the world. Twenty-four organisations worldwide now form Fairtrade Labelling Organisation International (FLO), which sets fairtrade standards and coordinates the movement. Fairtrade guarantees a fair price for farmers (the fairtrade price), protecting them from world market fluctuation. They also receive an additional sum (the fairtrade premium) for investment in their business and community. The standards also prohibit child labour.
The Fairtrade Association says this system benefits farmers and producers through:
- A fair and stable price for their produce.
- Security of long-term contracts.
- Investment in local community development.
- Improved working conditions.
- Environmentally-sustainable farming methods.
- Support in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to operate successfully in the global economy.
The Fairtrade symbol on a label means a product’s ingredients have been obtained in line with fairtrade policies; that the manufacturer and product, from bean to bar, are independently audited to ensure the policies are followed. However, our analysis of endorsement schemes (see CHOICE, March 2010) found that Fairtrade certification falls short on one aspect – it is generally given to “producer organisations” rather than individual farmers.
These organisations can be comprised of hundreds or sometimes thousands of farmers, meaning a “group certification” model is followed. For verification, a random check of a representative sample of individual farmers is conducted, meaning some farms may never be visited – an unavoidable reality, as it is implausible for Fairtrade to inspect every single farm each year. The system also favours small producers, so manufacturers are limited to a specific group of producers if they want to be Fairtrade-certified.
Organic cocoa beans are produced using farming practices that work in harmony with the local ecosystem to ensure sustainability. This results in a farm that can continually produce crops without depleting the soil of nutrients – meaning no more forest-clearing. Organic farming also emphasises renewable resources and conservation of energy and water. No synthetic chemicals are used, so minimal residue is left in the finished product and workers are not exposed to high levels of synthetic pesticides or agricultural chemicals.
Certifying bodies in various countries set standards that must be adhered to in order to carry a certification logo; certified companies are audited to ensure compliance with the standards. The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service established a national organisational standard, and seven Australian organisations are accredited to certify products. In our investigation of endorsement schemes, we highly recommended the Australian Certified Organic (ACO) and NASAA Certified Organic (NCO) organisations for their conduct, standards and transparency. Imports certified under a foreign system must also meet Australia’s National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce and have documentation to support this.