In a statement rare in its humility among organizations of similar size and scope, Fairtrade America has publicly identified areas in which it needs to improve its efforts, particularly as they relate to the most vulnerable populations within supply chains.
“The Fairtrade system is constantly evolving, and we are committed to continuous improvement to increase impact for producers in developing countries,” Fairtrade writes. “We have come a long way, and we have an ambitious vision and know that there is always going to be more that we can and should do in order to further our impact, particularly in vulnerable and hard to reach areas.”
In particular, the America branch of Fairtrade International — which is not to be confused with Fairtrade USA, which resigned from Fairtrade International membership in 2011 to branch out on its own — says it hopes to improve its work to create living wages and sustainable livelihoods that level the balance of power in the supply chain and better protect farm workers and empower women coffee producers.
“Insight from Fairtrade staff in the field and external experts highlights the areas that can improve in to deliver greater impact for our Fairtrade certified farmer and worker organizations,” says Fairtrade International. Not coincidentally, Fairtrade was praised last month by the 2015 Bond and Nidos Transparency Review as a leader among international development work organizations for publishing all its internal evaluations.
The group says its specific areas for improved efforts include “our work on including a living wage in the Fairtrade Standards, extending our work to cover farm workers, furthering the empowerment of female farmers and workers, leveling the power balance in supply chains and working with communities to create strong resilience to climate change. We acknowledge these challenges, and are taking steps to progress our response to them in future strategies.”
Setting, or resetting, Fairtrade standards is complicated business, involving Fairtrade’s own internal impact and research methodology, which is shared with Fairtrade governance bodies for evaluations and results summaries. These are then shared with Fairtrade staff, and are publicly disseminated as well — all of which eventually, potentially, leads to additional discussion and recommendations.
So while Fairtrade may not rewrite the standards overnight, it has at least taken an important first step in transparently sharing its own report card, identifying not only the subjects in which gold stars are warranted, but also where a red pen writes “needs to improve.”