In the lead up to Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 (Monday 27 February – Sunday 12 March), we’ll be looking at how Fairtrade is tackling inequality and exploitation, what it’s doing to help – and what the future is for the Fairtrade movement.
Each day 21 million workers are being exploited through forced labour, according to the International Labour Organization.
This is more than the combined populations of Greece and Belgium. Through Fairtrade, co-operatives are helping to reduce the effects of exploitation – and exploitation is the theme of this year’s Fairtade Fortnight too.
Fairtrade does work. It has provided a better wage for over a million farmers. In Uganda, researchers at the University of Göttingen found that Fairtrade cuts the likelihood of being poor by 50%
But exploitation can happen anywhere, and there is risk in the Fairtrade chain, where seasonal workers can face low wages and poor working conditions.
The labelling body, Fairtrade International, is tackling this. Its team work with farmers by highlighting how they should treat workers. But it’s difficult to police.
This is a sector-wide problem, as research published in December from NGO Repórter Brasil found that some of Brazil’s coffee farms, under the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, were exploiting workers through low pay and the withholding of benefits. This was regardless of the type of producer or its ethical label certification. (Even though Fairtrade is mentioned in this report, they say that the producer did not have permission to use the Fairtrade mark and was not certified).
It’s the responsibility of co-operatives to investigate their own supply chain – and there are plenty of tools to use. Organisations such as Sedex provide the knowledge and materials to do this efficiently.
Also, co-ops can engage with the issue on a global level by supporting the United Nations’ Social Development Goals. Specifically number eight, which asks organisations to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.
Being a responsible business means that co-operatives have a duty of care to all of its stakeholders. This includes everyone it directly and indirectly employs.
- International Labour Organization on modern slavery: s.coop/forcedlabour
- Sedex – empowering sustainable and ethical supply chains: www.sedexglobal.com
- Anti-slavery statement for co-ops: www.uk.coop/resources/modern-slavery
- Sustainable Development Goals: sustainabledevelopment.un.org
- Alliance 8.7 – eradicate modern slavery: www.alliance87.org