Fairtrade: Scaling up with integrity is ‘a difficult and arduous task’

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Corporate social responsibility, Social responsibility

Fairtrade International on scaling up with integrity
Fairtrade International today works with more than 3,000 companies and represents a global network of farmers and workers in 70 countries – but scaling up to this level has been a long, difficult journey, says the organisation’s CEO Harriet Lamb.

The idea of fair trade began about 25 years ago, but as the concept expanded, its proponents realised that they had to strike a balance between meeting the often conflicting needs of the private sector and disadvantaged producers.

“This is a long, difficult journey,”said Lamb.“Fairtrade is not a sugar coated pill. Every day, we are dealing with the realities of centuries of oppression, none of which will be solved overnight.

“Finding the right balance between facilitating trade, development and compliance is a sometimes difficult and arduous task that requires continuous improvement and fine tuning.”

The organisation says that early on, it recognised the role of the private sector for its potential to influence working conditions and environmental protection – and points to a recent UN report​ which also says the private sector is crucial to driving sustainable, inclusive growth.

“To ensure we scale up responsibly, Fairtrade has dedicated increased attention and resources to the human rights and freedoms promoted in the core ILO Conventions​, which are included in Fairtrade standards as minimum or core requirement,” the organisation said.

“…Growth can solve problems, but can breed others if core human rights are not considered.”

 Marike de Pena, vice chair of the Fairtrade International Board, added:“Growth with integrity means growing Fairtrade while taking into account all of the values and norms that are part of Fairtrade. Growth can never be at the expense of others.”

According to a new report from market research organisation Nielsen, about half of global consumers would be willing to pay more for social responsibility, up five percentage points from the 45% who said they would pay extra in 2011.

However, European consumers were the least likely to pay more for social responsibility, it found, with just 36% saying they would pay extra for goods and services from socially responsible companies.

“In countries where scepticism toward corporate social responsibility runs high, cause-marketers face an uphill battle,”said Nielsen’s vice president of corporate social responsibility Nic Covey.“In these markets, especially, social impact programs must be incontestably authentic to a company’s business objectives, vision and values.”

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