International Fairtrade Certification Mark - History

History

Fairtrade labelled coffee, the first Fairtrade labelled product, was first launched in the Netherlands in 1988. The label, launched by Nico Roozen and Dutch missionary Frans van der Hoff, was then called Max Havelaar after a fictional Dutch character who opposed the exploitation of coffee pickers in Dutch colonies. Fairtrade labelling allowed Fairtrade Certified goods to be sold outside the World shops for the first time and into mainstream retailers, reaching a larger consumer segment and boosting sales significantly. The labeling initiative also allowed customers and distributors alike to track the origin of the goods to confirm that the products were really benefiting the farmers at the end of the supply chain.

The concept caught on: in the ensuing years, similar non-profit Fairtrade labelling organizations were set up in other European countries and North America, called “Max Havelaar” (in Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and France), “Transfair” (in Germany, Luxembourg, Austria, Italy, the United States, Canada and Japan), or carrying a national name: “Fairtrade Mark” in the UK and Ireland, “Rättvisemärkt” in Sweden, and "Reilu Kauppa" in Finland. Initially, the Max Havelaars and the Transfairs each had their own Fairtrade standards, product committees and monitoring systems. In 1994, a process of convergence among the labelling organizations – or “LIs” (for “Labelling Initiatives”) – started with the establishment of a TransMax working group, culminating in 1997 in the creation of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International, now known simply as Fairtrade International (FLO). FLO is an umbrella organization whose mission is to set the Fairtrade Standards, support, inspect and certify disadvantaged producers and harmonize the Fairtrade message across the movement.

In 2002, FLO launched a new FAIRTRADE Certification Mark. The goals of the launch were to improve the visibility of the Mark on supermarket shelves, convey a dynamic, forward-looking image for Fairtrade, facilitate cross border trade and simplify procedures for importers and traders. The system of Fairtrade has always been about global relationships and global standards of fairness - these were recognised for the first time with an international FAIRTRADE Certification Mark.

The FAIRTRADE Mark harmonization process is still under way – as of March 2011, all but two labelling initiatives(TransFair USA and TransFair Canada) have fully adopted the new international Certification Mark. These two organizations currently use the Fair Trade Certified Mark, however Canadian organization began actively promoting the new international Certification Mark in 2010 as part of a total transition toward it. TransFair USA has apparently elected to continue with its own mark for the time being,.

At present, over 19 FLO Member Labelling Initiatives are using the International Fairtrade Certification Mark. There are now Fairtrade Certification Marks on dozens of different products, based on FLO’s certification for coffee, tea, rice, bananas, mangoes, cocoa, cotton, sugar, honey, fruit juices, nuts, fresh fruit, quinoa, herbs and spices, wine and footballs etc.


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