The fair trade market in Europe has grown some 70 fold since 1999, when the Commission adopted its last communication on it, to be worth around €1.5bn at retail. Even the economic crisis does not appear to be deterring multinational companies from linking to the fair trade schemes or launching there own sustainability programmes.
For instance, in March chocolate giant Cadbury declared its intention to source only certified Fairtrade chocolate for its Dairy Milk brand – despite consumers keeping a close watch on treat spending in the recession.
The new communication gives an update of developments since 1999, and lays out some of the considerations for public authorities, stakeholders, and private schemes.
EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said: "It is important that consumers, companies and government authorities can make well-informed choices when it comes to Fair Trade products. The Commission will stay engaged and further support Fair Trade and other trade-related schemes, given their great potential to contribute to sustainable development."
Amongst the successes of the movement in the last decade, the communication notes the “striking” developments in national markets where certified fair trade products were already present.
“Answering the 1999 communication’s call for a single label and the need for independent verification and control, the Fairtrade Certification Mark has been successfully implemented,” it said.
Awareness of fair trade was as high as 70 per cent in the UK in 2008, compared to 12 per cent in 2000. In France awareness rose from 9 per cent in 2000 to 74 per cent in 2005. Between 60 and 70 per cent of global fair trade sales are believed to take place in Europe.
The communication also notes the role of fair trade in “illuminating issues of responsibility and solidarity”, and the growth in social and environmental auditing standards used by trade related private sustainability initiatives.
“This success underlines the need for consumers, public authorities, and other stakeholders, including producer organisations in developing countries, to measure the real impact of fair trade,” says the communication.
Amongst the conclusions of the communication the Commission says it intends to explore the scope for more dialogue, cooperation and (where appropriate) convergence between private labelling schemes, so as to promote any synergies and enhance clarity for consumers.
It also said it intends to continue funding for relevant fair trade and other sustainable trade-related activities, and does not exclude the possibility of financing targeted actions.
The communication is available at http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2009/may/tradoc_143089.pdf