Traidcraft's Dilemma - Update from Us
In my latest update, which you can read here, I explained that we’d been informed by FLO-Cert that we needed to resolve a ‘major non-compliance’ connected to the sugar in our fruit slab cakes (for a reminder of the scenario, see the aforementioned link). Our options were either paying a fine of €5,000 or buying the equivalent weight of the original ingredient from another Fairtrade supplier and selling it to a 3rd party company who would use it in a non-Fairtrade product.
For the many of you who emailed me in response to our complex dilemma, thank you so much for your feedback; I was overwhelmed with the amount of passion in your responses. An extra special thanks to those of you who suggested that we should pay the fine, and subsequently offered to contribute towards it. Your generosity is appreciated, but we are not intending to take you up on this. I hope to share more of our conundrums with you in the future.
Firstly, the overall feeling we obtained from your feedback is that you were pleased to be privy to our dilemma, and applaud our transparency. Comments like, “thanks for sharing the dilemma on the blog, it feels like a privilege to be given an insight into the complex world of fair trade” tell us that you’re enjoying coming along with us on this journey.
Some of the feedback was unequivocal; “paying the fine is the only option”, “it might sadly be cheaper to pay the fine and move on” and “selling it to a third party for non-Fairtrade purposes smacks of the ridiculous”.
However, others felt the dilemma as keenly as we did; “it is regrettable, but the rules are there for a purpose and if Traidcraft gets special treatment because it acted in good faith, it will make it harder to enforce the rules in the future and provide other organisations with a loophole that could be exploited to the detriment of the Fairtrade movement.” Some felt that regrettably there was no other option than paying the Fairtrade certification system, to maintain our trust in products, as “we need the certification to be credible”.
An extensive cohort of you thought we ‘shouldn’t’ pay the fine, but that “the energy required to fight the battle would be better directed elsewhere”.
On the other side of the fence completely, many of you felt keenly that we should “take a stand” against a “bureaucratic and inflexible” response from the Fairtrade Foundation, where others saw the benefit in purchasing more of the fair trade ingredients rather than paying the fine, “purely as that would seem likely to benefit more growers”. One response described the situation as having “shades of Orwell’s Animal Farm” and backed the substitute option, as “Traidcraft can’t afford to lose the right to use the ‘Fairtrade’ label that it helped to establish, as it would give the outside world the impression they had abandoned ‘Fairtrade’”, but that we should also “fight to re-educate the Fairtrade Foundation, Fairtrade International and Fairtrade Certification on the goals of ‘Fairtrade’ – it is not to get the maximum turnover in ‘Fairtrade products’, but rather to maximise the number of people taken out of exploitation and poverty.
It’s been truly enlightening reading through your responses and heartening to see that, for the most part, you feel our dilemma. Regardless of which alternative you opted for, it’s been wonderful reading through all of your well-wishing messages and positive feedback about the latest catalogue and how Traidcraft has been “pulled back from the brink”.
Your feedback helped us arrive at our conclusion, which after much debate, is to go for the substitute option. The slab cake has been produced but without the Fairtrade Mark on the packaging. We know this product is still as fair trade as can be, however, as we have chosen to take the Fairtrade mark off (for now), in the eyes of the Fairtrade Foundation this is no longer under their remit.
We'll certainly be asking for your opinions again with any future dilemmas - thank you!