As brands and retailers begin to abandon the 25-year-old ethical trading scheme we look at what went wrong, and whether in-house programmes will offer a worse or better deal for farmers and the planet
This summer’s row over Sainsbury’s pulling out of Fairtrade for tea, and last year’s decision by confectionery giant Mondelez to pull the Fairtrade mark off its brands, have put the ethical trading sector and some of the world’s biggest brands under the spotlight.
Writing in The Grocer, journalist and author Joanna Blythman summed up the view of many when she said: “Consumer trust is hard-earned and easily lost. If corporates want us to believe that they are indeed ethical concerns, then cherry-picking rent-a-cert bodies to aid and abet the lie that Fairtrade-lite can deliver social justice and equity for farmers and grocers won’t do the trick.
“Any fool can see the downward spiral. First you ditch Fairtrade for a weaker, vaguer lookalike, next you ditch that unconvincing option for a self-serving ‘take our word for it’ in-house equivalent.”
Nigel Sizer, president of the Rainforest Alliance, which is merging with Netherlands certification scheme UTZ later this year, said that the cost of certification schemes was a concern for companies and “may be driving a lot of those corporate decisions” to develop their own schemes.