Yes, it’s true. A long brewing schism within the Fair Trade movement between the certifying bodies and most everyone else (producer co-ops, alternative trade organizations, fair trade advocates, consumer activists, etc.) has finally culminated in an actual break.
TransFair USA has withdrawn from the International Fair Trade Certifying body, FLO International, in order to go it alone. They do not agree with others in the movement that the fair trade system should continue to carry out its original mission: to support small farmer organizations by helping them gain access to the international market. When TransFair USA announced its intention to change their name to FairTrade USA despite much protest from others in the movement, it was clear that this next step was not too far away. Producers, fair trade organizations, and activists continue to express their criticism of TransFair’s decision (and actions). All that remains to be seen is what concrete responses will be taken to lessen the impact the certifier’s action will now have on those for whom the system was created; small farmer organizations.
Many thanks to our friends at the Fair World Project for nicely summing up the perspectives of TransFair USA, FLO International, and the various producer networks.
A few of us from Equal Exchange are here in El Salvador attending the First International Gathering of the Small Producers’ Symbol (SPP). The meeting begins today and while the focus of the gathering is on this new initiative, there will be much talk about the current state of Fair Trade and how best to move forward. Despite TransFairs’ continued actions to build its own brand by focusing on growth and expansion over quality and impact, we will continue working hard to build market access for small farmer organizations, to build an educated and informed network of consumers, to connect producers and consumers, and most importantly to change, not merely accept, the way that conventional business and international trade are done.
Thanks to everyone who shares this belief and is working alongside us to build this alternative economic system.