Fairtrade 101: The Example of Equifruit
Who is Equifruit?
Equifruit is the Canadian market leader in Fairtrade-certified bananas. We’re a team of 4 passionate women, devoted to ethical business and making fruit fair.
Most of our day is spent getting fruit from our partners in Latin and South America to our customers in Ontario and Quebec, but we’ll also take any chance we can to talk about the mechanics of Fairtrade and its impact for producers.
So what is Fairtrade?
At its most basic, Fairtrade is business. Like any other commercial transaction, It’s trade between a buyer and a seller, but in the case of Fairtrade, this is done within a defined ethical framework yielding quantifiable social impact.
Within the Fairtrade system, both Equifruit and our producers adhere to strict standards of certification, and are subject to frequent audits to ensure compliance.
As buyers, we respect at least minimum prices to producers, as established by the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO). These transparent prices are set by commodity and by country, and are meant to represent the cost of sustainable production.
In addition to minimum prices, Equifruit also pays a social premium – an amount also set by unit or weight – which small producer cooperatives or worker groups pool to fund community development projects. The current social premium for bananas is 1 USD / case and goes towards projects such as healthcare, education, improving working conditions and producer training.
As sellers, our producers also have FLO standards to respect: that workers’ rights have been protected (including a ban on child labour), that gender equity is respected, that decision-making is done democratically and that fruit is produced sustainably for both the environment and people.
What is the difference between fair trade and Fairtrade?
When “fair trade” is used as two words, it evokes the overall belief in fairness and decency in the global market place: creating opportunities for marginalized farmers, supporting safe working conditions and protecting the rights of children. The term “FAIRTRADE” (one word) refers to the specific fair trade certification system run by Fairtrade International (FLO) and its members, including Fairtrade Canada. The Fairtrade (one word) mark is recognized internationally and has become synonymous with ethical sourcing.
What is fair-washing? And why is transparency and traceability so important?
There is no law governing the use of the term “fair trade”, so consumers are easily misled by promises that products are “fairly traded” or “beyond fair trade” without clear information about the standards which have been respected to make such claims. We often say that unless you know exactly what price standards have been respected, and whether there’s a social premium mechanism in place, then you’re just buying an expensive banana.
At Equifruit we have chosen to be certified by Fairtrade International for its transparent standards. We also like the emphasis on direct, long-term relationships with partner cooperatives in Ecuador and Peru: every case of Equifruit bananas can be traced back to the small producer who grew it. The packing list for each of our containers tells us who produced every case of fruit in the load – and so in theory, we could establish a QR code per producer and share that with you, too! (We’re not there yet, logistically – but dare to dream!)
Fairtrade is about empowerment
The emphasis in Fairtrade is on people. It’s about empowering small producers, and giving them a fair shake in global trade. Fairtrade encourages close relationships between buyers & sellers – allowing more equitable terms of trade, and a true partnership. Consumers can buy Fairtrade-certified bananas knowing that the “human” piece of the fruit trade is paramount: so hooray to the Big Carrot for its commitment to ethical purchasing. We look forward to meeting you on May 12th and in the meantime, be sure to pop in for a bunch of Equifruit!
Michelle Gubbels Project Manager at Equifruit
Michelle will be hosting a Thursday Night Lecture about Fairtrade on Thursday May 12, 2016