“Roundtable on the Future of Fair Trade”
Lorax Woodlands, Nova Scotia – May 23 -24, 2008
This event was hosted by Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op and Fernwood Publishing and brought together a small group of diverse people involved in Fair Trade from academic, trading and producer backgrounds.
Participants included Francisco VanderHoff (UCIRI), Darryl Reid & JJ McMurtry (York U), Bob Thomson (Ottawa), Bill Barrett (Planet Bean), Harry Cook (TransFair Canada), Brian O’Neill (OXFAM), Jeff Moore, Debra Moore, Kathy Day, Julia Duarte & Tom Walsh (Just Us! Coffee Roasters).
The aim of the Roundtable was to discuss from different perspectives the challenges facing Fair Trade and to develop strategies to maximize the social, economic and environmental benefits to organizations of small farmers.
I. Mistakes, Limitations & Challenges Today of Fair Trade:
· VALUES & LACK OF DEFINITIONS – There is no clear, uniform set of values articulated for the FT stakeholders. Establishing the shared values (caring, sharing, equitable, community, life enhancing, democratic, etc) is significant in creating a different economy. Definitions – values, understanding development, vision, mission of FT.
· THE POLITICAL QUESTION – The political roots of FT stakeholders are diverse and policy development limited by northern biases. Is the debate to be initiated with a critique of neo-Liberalism and placing FT in the larger neo-Liberal context? Is FT prepared to make it a political project. If it is a social & political movement then our values have to be clear. FT has focused too much on the economic pillar to the detriment of the social & environmental pillars. How to demystify globalization? What alternative does FT offer to everyone in today’s world? How to make FT a political movement (through education, lobbying, linking to other movements, international, local food)?
· PUBLIC POLICY – Lack of a policy framework and legislation in its relationship with the State. How to establish the FT standard before the government regulates it?
· NORTH/SOUTH RELATIONSHIPS– Connectedness of FT from producers to consumers has not been done properly. The producers have too small a voice in FT structures. There needs to be a democratic bottom up approach, not top down. Create a new dynamic with clear goals to “re-launch” the movement as a development approach (create the development of “decent poverty” or dignified poverty). Producers should be linked to the final product as much as possible. The FT value chain is not equitable in how the benefits are shared with producers taking the greatest risk and getting the least.
· EDUCATION/ADVOCACY – Within the FT movement insufficient discussion exists around the meaning of what is “development”. No place where debate, investigation, systematization of experiences on FT issues can take place. How to address larger trade and development issues? The need to locate FT within the social economy and strengthen the SE sector of our societies. How to define social development as in doing so it will be hard for corporations to copy or adhere to its principles. Social justice has to be analyzed internally and externally of FT. How to create solidarity about what FT is meant to be and get this into the mainstream of our societies.
· NEW MARKET APPROACHES – In pursuing new ways to participate in the market it is difficult to be ‘in the market’ but not ‘of the market’. A dilemma… is there a way to do it that will allow producers to sell more products. Fair Trade with its direct producer/consumer relationships has had some relative success eliminating intermediaries and speculation but how to extend this?
· VALUE CHAINS – Insist on transparency where value is added. New models of value chains to be developed. Governance of value chain needs to be taken seriously. Address the distribution question in growing market beyond niche markets.
· LABELS – (ownership, credibility, and relationships) The FT label is easily water downed and a source of conflict as Corporations and plantations receive FT status for their products. Social and environmental consciousness is rising but being co-opted by corporations for CSR. Real risk of potential domination of FT by multi-nationals. There are multiple labels adding to the confusion. How then to properly handle the FT label? Who and how is the label to be paid for? Rather than being penalized for using FT products penalize those that are not fair in their trade relationships!
· SOCIAL MOVEMENT – Lack of clarity as to how to organize the FT movement. How do we create national and international structures for FT? Role of the “Fair Trader” is to have better/more communication channels as real alternative is possible, needed and urgent. Transfair – more focused on the consumer end (a disconnect). Organization building – worker/owner models that are sustainable, develop the worker/owner, we need to tell the success stories. FT is experiencing the risk of an organization that started with high purpose, but ends up being concerned more with survival (self interest, bureaucracy).
· NETWORKS – FT has experienced a loss of connection to social movements. There exists a difficulty in ‘marrying’ the FT Advantage to the Co-op Advantage, and how to connect with other movements. Not enough collaboration in response to the multiple opportunities the Fair Traders have. The movements – women’s rights, environmental issues, racism, FT, etc need to be working in a united way. How to be creating social infrastructure in communities that is transformative?
3. Principal Strategies:
· Work on a “Values Statement” to push FT to the level that we think it should be and to create a movement that articulates in a clear way what FT is meant to be. A statement is needed with clarity on mission, vision, values. There will be extensive consultation and a two step strategy implemented for this work:
a) Analyze value statements currently circulating (FINE, FLO, TransFair Canada, CLAC)
b) Prepare a statement reflecting our understanding/vision and circulate it for discussion.
· In the “Values Statement” consider these aspects:
a) FT is for small producers and workers.
b) There should there be symmetry between what happens in the North and South.
c) Community linkages essential – control over local development
d) Value chain benefits should be shared in an equitable manner
e) Economic and social capacity building throughout the value chain
f) Democratic control and participation throughout the value chain.
g) Equity, Inclusive and democratic representation in the whole chain.
h) Transparency and education throughout the value chain
i) That there be long term stability in value chain relationships
j) Ecological sustainability
k) Regulations should be established and enforced
l) Credit accessibility
m) Leave traceability open/how it happens
· Establish some form of “think tank” or “task force” that can formulate definitions in association and consultation with all FT stakeholders.
B) Labels/Labeling strategies
· Label is the FT presentation card to the consumer
· The Label carries the weight of the values inherent in the FT Movement.
C) TRANSFAIR CANADA:
· TransFair needs to be auditing in the social as well as the economic.
· TransFair needs to be a “movement actor” actively encouraging FT collaboration.
· to create a body for a “Canadian Platform on Fair Trade” – (already being worked on by a diverse group of FT actors)
· TransFair could be part of the movement
· Should licensees and producers be on the TransFair board (representation from movements as well)
Suggested Next Steps:
· Document notes and send out electronically, first to those who were present at Lorax and secondly for input from those who were invited but unable to assist.
· The “Lorax” group should be represented at the UBC Congress to create a “Canadian Platform on Fair Trade” and make a presentation there with emphasis on the values statement.
· Build on the “Manifesto” document from Montreal (Oct ’07, Canadian Platform on Fair Trade)
· Put “meat” on the label by meeting with TransFair Canada
· Establish a timeline – to be ready by the new year
1. Share value statement in June (Canadian Platform on Fair Trade)
2. Share value statement with TransFair Vancouver Congress in July
3. Share value statement on October 3, 4, 5 in Ottawa (Canadian Platform on Fair Trade)
4. Share value statement on October 8, 9, 10 in Mexico (Comercio Justo)
5. Christmas Declaration!
6. Keep in communication over email – share information and ideas.
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