U.S. Rebel’s Split Riles $6 Billion World of Ethical Commerce
2011-11-03 05:00:01.0 GMT
By Simon Clark
Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) — Fairtrade International brings together retailers and other marketers in wealthy countries with small-scale producers of foods in the developing world. The organization’s goal is to ensure the ethical treatment of workers. Retailers in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere can then sell these products as Fairtrade-labeled. Small farmers find affluent customers, who reap the satisfaction of knowing their purchases are helping a person, not an enormous, faceless agro-corporation. Last year $6 billion worth of Fairtrade-approved goods were sold globally, up 27 percent from 2009. There’s trouble in this utopia, though. Fair Trade USA, the
largest American group, announced on Sept. 15 that it would split from Bonn-based Fairtrade International, which coordinates
groups worldwide and imposes the standards that make fair trade such a powerful force. Fair Trade USA has started a separate
label that retailers can use to boost sales of coffee, chocolate and fruits around the globe. That’s sparked an uproar as fair-trade advocates claim Fair Trade USA Chief Executive Paul Rice is putting standards at risk just to boost sales, Bloomberg Businessweek reports in its Nov. 7 issue. “Lowered standards undermine the fair-trade values producers, activists and consumers have advocated,” said Maria Louzon, national coordinator of United Students for Fair Trade. She vowed to boycott goods bearing the Fair Trade USA logo, including popular Green Mountain Coffee.