* * * Public Statement for Immediate Release * * *
United Students for Fair Trade Withdraws Support from Fair Trade USA/Transfair – Calls for Reform to Fair Trade Standards
25 October 2011
As an independent and integral voice in the Fair Trade movement, United Students for Fair Trade has held many meetings to conclude on where we stand on Transfair/Fair Trade USA’s recent decision to leave FLO.
We are deeply concerned by FT USA’s move to leave FLO and many other decisions made preceding it.
We have analyzed the potential consequences of the new changes and have decided that the moves FT USA is making will be detrimental to the progress the movement has achieved for producers and artisans all over the world.These lowered standards undermine the Fair Trade values producers, activists, and consumers have advocated for since the inception of the Fair Trade movement in the late nineties. Since this time, public outcry from community stakeholders to uphold the integrity of the standards have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears at Transfair/Fair Trade USA. We have therefore concluded that until these community stakeholders – small scale farmers, producers, workers, community and student activists, and 100% Fair Trade businesses – can reconvene to assess these changes, we can no longer in good conscience promote Transfair/Fair Trade USA products.
We hereby pull our support from Transfair/Fair Trade USA and encourage others in the movement to do the same until drastic reforms can be made.
We fear that without such action from Fair Trade supporters, Fair Trade will entropy into a little more than a cheap marketing ploy. Increasing fair-label washing which will cause more consumer distrust and confusion and cripple the power of the movement to make real changes in farmers’ lives. Fair Trade standards should not be tailored to business or corporations. Corporations should tailor their businesses to meet the needs of farmers! If these entities would like to associate themselves with having ethical products, they should have to make the same commitment to these values and the producers who deserve it that those smaller businesses before them have successfully made.
Why would we sell out on Fair Trade values at the point of entry to this market – the very moment when our movement’s bargaining power against corporations is at its peak? We believe that Transfair/Fair Trade USA’s willingness to bend standards is the consequence of a conflict of interest in their funding structure and a lack of accountability on their board. It seems obvious to us that their desire to take on more lucrative certification contracts, more so than any purported issues with supply, are motivating the alarming deviations from the founding-principles of Fair Trade, such as the inclusion of plantation-grown commodities, lower multi-ingredient standards, and their launch into commodities like apparel and bananas that activists have asked them not to pursue without more cautious forethought.
While we look forward to discussing these points with our fellow activist supporters, farmers, and 100% Fair Trade businesses in the near future, we’ve outlined some of our main critiques below: (more…)